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Thursday 5 March

Irénée Scalbert
Sources of the Formless (Part I)
(Part II: 12 March)

In the first of these two lectures, Irénée Scalbert will show how the House of the Future, built by the Smithsons in 1956 for the Ideal Home Exhibition, was among the most important manifestations of the formless in architecture. For the first time, the full weight of anti-formalist views were brought to bear upon habitable space.

The House of the Future has long been remembered as an icon of Pop architecture; following a detailed description of the project based on the architects' files, Irénée Scalbert will show that it was shaped by very different concerns. Discussions with the Independent Group, to which the best among young architects, artists and critics then belonged, had a determined influence on the design. The House of the Future was the outcome of a radical sensibility within the group which sought to oppose any reference to the ideas of form and beauty. It could not have been conceived without an interest, fashionable then as it is now, in the mathematics of topology and the concept of connectivity.

In Part II on 12 March, Irénée Scalbert will demonstrate how this notion of topology is part of a much larger picture developed by artists and writers in Paris in the late 1940s.

Irénée Scalbert is an architecture critic and teaches in General Studies at the AA. He has written several essays about architecture in the 1950s, published in AA Files, arq, ARCHIS and Le MoniteurArchitecture-AMC.