This is an image of the Spaghetti Junction interchange in the West Midlands, England.
In 1990, several architectural designers came up with some alternative design ideas for the area over and under the Junction: an infrastructural megastructure that's magnificent to see from above and travel through but that cuts up communities living either side.
Robert Adam, the classicist English architect, decided to accentuate the interchange as a gateway to the city:
American internationalists Swanke Hayden Connell decided to condense the structure by building on top and around it with offices and housing:
But Melanie imagined a fabulous, Hamburg-style nightclub beneath the interchange piers:
And alongside recent RIBA Gold Medal winner Edward Cullinan, Finnish landscape architects Pirkko Higson chose to use the scale of spaces beneath the interchange
and imagine a jungle:
Five architects, five revisions of a public space: oh God! another architectural ideas initiative!
Yes. But there's a small but important dimension to this project.
Over at BLDGBLOG, there's speculation on the relationship between architecture and the media.
How are architectural ideas communicating through...various media? Does the medium itself inform the message, as it were – and in what specific way? How are architecture and architectural ideas repackaged for discussion in these various forms?
The project on Spaghetti Junction contributes to the discussion because it was commissioned by the British Broadcasting Corporation and was broadcast as a special edition of an innovative arts TV series called The Late Show.
The person who came up with the project idea - er, me! - wanted to speculate upon the different pictures of the world in architectural designers' heads, suppressed by tight top-buttons done up and the virulent anti-architectural spirit of the times, triggered by Prince Charles' outburst against the National Gallery extension by Venturi Scott-Brown.
Nothing much has happened to the space since this outburst of creative visioning, perhaps confirming in the abstract architect Bernard Tschumi's thought that
No spatial organization ever changes the socio-economic structure of a reactionary society.
But one principal stands tall.
Architecture need not be communicated by the media simply through reportage.
It can be communicated by the media acknowledging that it has a role as a protagonist in the public realm and that it can make its presence known as commissioner and cultural speculator.
In some places or situations, civic organization is dead and buried.
In others, it is fractured in to bowling associations, amenity groups and people obsessed with the world on their doorstep.
In others still, local government has given up the job of curating the physical quality of public life.
The question is whether the media can and is willing to fill the void and become an activist promoter of civic value and support the common sense prescription of architect Denise Scott-Brown when she wrote:
Where civic design succeeds, it is usually because it is sponsored by a civic organisation that operates as watch-dog, implementer, funder, maintainer, and supporter of the project because this group has convinced the city that its project is in the interest of the whole community.
Yes, the media is entertainment. And yes, it's devoted to making money. It would be deadly if it were otherwise.
But if architecture is defined by the actions it witnesses as much as the enclosure of its walls, ditto the media.
Somewhere between the two there is common purpose.
So the job has got to be to get media corporations to not just commission superstarchitect head offices but become activists and sponsors of design and social innovation.
And for architects to not take such a snobbish, PR-orientated attitude towards the media, acknowledge a mutual role as shapers of the public realm, not hide in the basements of their buildings...and PLAY!
Pictures of Spaghetti Junction courtesy of Tim Ellis.