Banham has a unique style of writing about architecture, which can be both leisure and aggressive. Compared with its forward-looking name, the book Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past was more like an overview of the architectural history of the 1960s, or rather, the best look at an impulse in the architecture of such specific period.
Begin with the Le Corbusier’s notably megastructure concept, the book attempted to introduce the new emerging megastructure phenomenon as well as its development history which happened thirty years after the launch of its first original term. Extending megastructure’s implication, it persisted the essential elements: on the one hand, it appeared a massive even monumental supporting frame, namely, a man-made feature matrix; on the other, it contained diverse and spontaneous arrangements beyond architects’ control, imposing a form of order to the chaos of modern cities.
The book used different cases (e.g. Kenzo Tange, Tokyo Bay project) to point out that megastructure was not only of great size, but a structure which was frequently: 1) constructed of modular units (modular); 2) capable of great even unlimited extension (extensible); 3) a structure framework into which smaller structural units could be built (clip-on & plug-in); 4) a structural framework expected to have a useful life much longer than that of the smaller units which it might support (permanent). Such features provides megastructure the possibility of being an urban structure for the future to resolve the conflicts between design and spontaneity, the large and the small, the permanent and the transient, with modern, high technology, and an open, spontaneous system.
However, reflecting on the architectural theory history of 1960s-1970s, the book ended with the fact that the megastructure was finally abandoned by the history since it generated a form of order that architects themselves could not manage. The author also discussed the reasons: one is that the actually completed megastructures which had taken so long to build or had passed away before completion were more or less guaranteed a bad press and a hostile reception of the society: pollution, crime, congestion, and dysfunctions of municipal services. Another is that the concept of megastructure itself by then was also about exhausted: it was faulted right through by an inner contradiction that could not be resolved. Moreover, the liberty of inhabitants also destroyed the megastructure itself – it finally became a self-cancelling concept.
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