Contribution to Forms of Inquiry: The Architecture of Critical Graphic Design, a travelling exhibition presenting a group of international graphic designers.
Fantastic Architecture, by Wolf Vostell and Dick Higgins, was published in 1969 by Higgins’s own Something Else Press (New York), following a German edition as Pop Architektur. The book attempts to ‘restore a spirit of aesthetic research to architecture’ through a disparate set of visual and textual propositions by prominent Fluxus, Conceptual and Pop artists, almost all of whom are outsiders to the discipline of architecture.
Each artist’s contribution is presented on full-bleed, black-and-white spreads, while the book’s editorial voice is primarily dispersed across a series of numbered ‘captions’. Frequently reading more like topical mini-manifestos, these captions are printed in small, bold Helvetica on vellum sheets intermittently overlaid with pages of artwork. Vostell’s own writings are also printed on vellum, though they appear as reproduced hand- and type-written sheets.
Notable pieces in the book include Gerhard Rühm’s ‘Plan for building a new city of Vienna’, which proposes spelling out the city’s name, ‘W-I-E-N’, as four monumental typographic buildings. As inhabitable, hermetically sealed signage, each of the buildings would accommodate a specific function, such as city administration, meditation, sexuality, and death. Hans Hollein, one of the few practising architects included in the book, presents several collages from his project ‘Aircraft Carrier City’, in which a ship is transformed into an urban formation set in a range of landscapes. The computer-generated poem ‘House of Dust’, by Alison Knowles, achieves a strange sort of poignancy through its thirty-three randomly combined four-line stanzas, each describing a house’s building material, location, lighting and inhabitants.
Some contributions, such as those by John Cage, Robert Filliou and Diter Rot, are reproductions of informal postcards, letters, or notes directly responding to the editors’ call for projects, thus rendering the book’s editorial process transparent.
The final piece in Fantastic Architecture, ‘An Appeal for Fantasy’ by Dadaist Raoul Hausmann, begins with a critique of ‘sedentary’ architecture and a call for an architecture of ‘imagination’ — an architecture literally unbounded by gravity. The piece culminates in Hausmann’s ultimate task for humanity: to plane the world’s mountains, dig 200-mile-deep trenches, and detonate all American and Soviet atomic bombs within these mines, thus throwing the earth out of orbit and allowing it to ‘visit the brother stars in our universe. Without fail!’. As a coda, the book’s endsheets echo this cheerfully apocalyptic sentiment, displaying roughly half-toned photographs of nuclear detonations seemingly as a celebratory slate-wiping step towards, in Wolf Vostell’s words, ‘the realisation of utopias [that] will make man happy and release him from his frustrations’.
—Project Projects, 2007