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History & Heritage Public Lecture Series - The Architecture of Weightlessness

Posted on in College News by Clair Ledsham

The final lecture in this year’s History & Heritage Public Lecture Series at University College Isle of Man takes place on Wednesday 28th June, in an event jointly organised with Isle of Architecture.

Isle of Architecture is a year-long celebration of the Island’s built environment, supported by Culture Vannin, Manx National Heritage, and the Isle of Man Society of Architects. The past year has seen competitions, children’s workshops, music in unusual spaces, tours, and lectures, all aimed at encouraging people to think about the important role that the built environment plays in our everyday lives.

On Wednesday 28th June, doctoral student Andrew Walters will be speaking about the nature and meaning of ‘weightless’ architecture.

Weightless architecture refers to those buildings and structures which appear to defy gravity, such as Beetham Tower in Manchester, which opened in 2006. From the twenty-third floor, the building juts out and protrudes into nothingness, apparently unsupported and visibly insubstantial. It was this building that first prompted Andrew to ask: why would anyone want to build something like that?

The question proved surprisingly difficult to answer. Andrew explains, “I began to look deeper into the Beetham Tower, and into other buildings like it, trying to find a good reason why architects across the world would be inclined towards the construction of buildings so visually, if not actually, fallible. But the question of weightlessness, or rather the appearance of weightlessness, seemed bizarrely absent from either the architectural literature or the media discussion around the buildings. Eventually, I began to theorise outside the realm of architecture, turning to philosophy and history in search of a new way of finding an answer.

 “My research spanned nearly half a century of architectural development, taking into account geographical, social and political instabilities and rapid ideological changes. And after four years of study, I’m pleased to say that I have found an answer. It is an answer that encompasses not just the most ardent architect of weightlessness, Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architects, whose Diamond Ranch High School holds the key, but a whole swathe of architects and the promises that were made to them in their youth. It is an answer that addresses the future, the past, and visions of past futures.”

Andrew Walters’ lecture on ‘A History of Futures Past: Morphosis, Diamond Ranch and the Architecture of Weightlessness’ is part sci-fi, part philosophical intrigue, and part-architectural controversy. It takes place in Elmwood House (behind the St John Ambulance Centre, off Glencrutchery Road) at 6pm on Wednesday 28th June. All are welcome, and no booking is required.

Further details about the History & Heritage lecture series, together with videos of previous lectures, can be found online at http://catrionamackie.net/lectures/. Follow Isle of Architecture on social media and online at www.isleofarchitecture.com.



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