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Speed Limits | speed in modern life

October 14, 2009
Seattle 1983 - Collection CCA, Montréal © Tod E. Gangler

Seattle 1983 - Collection CCA, Montréal © Tod E. Gangler

The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) has just finished an exhibition devoted to the inescapable presence of speed in modern life, in art, architecture and urbanism, and in the graphic arts, economics, and the material culture of the industrial age and our own age of information. The exhibition spotlighted the hundredth anniversary of Italian Futurism, the movement to which we owe the famous statement that appeared in its founding manifesto: “The world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed.”

We want to share some amazing images and a brief review about the works presented at the CCA and also talk a little bit about Speed. We can talk about the powers and limits of the modern era’s cult of speed in the domains of circulation and transit, construction and the built environment, efficiency, the measurement and representation of rapid motion, and the mind/body relationship. A variety of objects spanning a 100-year cultural history reveal the long-standing polarities and closely intertwined relationship between the fast and the slow.

Chantier de l’édifice de la Irving Trust Company, 1 Wall Street, New York, 16 décembre 1929

Chantier de l’édifice de la Irving Trust Company, 1 Wall Street, New York, 16 décembre 1929

Chantier de l’édifice de la Irving Trust Company, 1 Wall Street, New York, 16 janvier 1930

Chantier de l’édifice de la Irving Trust Company, 1 Wall Street, New York, 16 janvier 1930

Chantier de l’édifice de la Irving Trust Company, 1 Wall Street, New York, 4 février 1930

Chantier de l’édifice de la Irving Trust Company, 1 Wall Street, New York, 4 février 1930

As read on the press release:

Architecture is a motive force behind the speeding-up of life, reflected in the increasing efficiency of construction processes. The phenomenon is illustrated through photographic sequences capturing the erection of the Irving Trust Building (New York), the Eiffel Tower (Paris), and Rem Koolhaas’s China Central Television building (Beijing). The fast pace of construction of these and other buildings can be analyzed by studying dated sequential images. While the quickly built Empire State Building was a masterpiece of construction, Andy Warhol’s film Empire represents it in stark contrast, as a static “moving image.”

Prefabrication served as a major drive towards increasing construction efficiency, and is represented by various trade catalogues of homes and other building types, as well as photographs documenting their assembly. The exhibition included works by J.J.P. Oud and Cedric Price, reflecting the sustained interest in modular housing by architects throughout the 20th century.

Photomontage de projets conçus par Mart Stam dans les années 1920 1930

Photomontage de projets conçus par Mart Stam dans les années 1920 1930

Vue du classificateur mécanique à alimentation électrique, Prague, 1936

Vue du classificateur mécanique à alimentation électrique, Prague, 1936

Speed Limits is another approach from the CCA`s long-standing exploration of major questions posed by contemporary architecture, in particular about urban, social and environmental issues. The exhibition was following Actions: What You Can do with the City; Some Ideas on Living in London and Tokyo by Stephen Taylor and Ryue Nishizawa (2008); 1973: Sorry, Out of Gas (2007); Environment: Approaches for Tomorrow with Gilles Clément and Philippe Rahm (2006); and Sense of the City (2005), an innovative exhibition dedicated to the theme of urban phenomena and perceptions that have traditionally been ignored, repressed or maligned.

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