Alternative Histories: Sam Jacob Studio on Archizoom

Sam Jacob Studio, Archizoom’s design for a theatre, 2018. Unfired clay, 450 × 450 × 200 mm.
Archizoom Associati, design for a theatre, Ponte–Arcobaleno (Rainbow Bridge), 1968. Print on paper, 280 × 430 mm. DMC 2057.4.

What might the purpose of an alternative history be? How might we collaborate with the past? What passes from one generation to another or from one hand to another? Is the construction of a (new) model of an (old) project a way of producing an alternative past? Or different present?

It been interesting working with Archizoom. In honesty they were difficult partners. Their drawing a cryptic message, delivered without a cypher. Clearly an idea about architecture in the form of a recognisable yet distorted form. An arch? A bridge? Something like a brick chimney or a column (or something else that should be vertical) bent into the arc of a rainbow. Solid masonry form infected by the physics of light and the transience of weather systems. At least this was the transmission from the past that we could make out. Our response to subject other architectural forms to the same architectural forces. Columns, skyscrapers, churches, barns, houses, obelisks – all things that should provide symbolic stability destabilised by a different order of behaviour.

Our model making might be a form of deciphering, a way of transcribing a scratchy message broadcast by Archizoom’s drawing. Making becomes a way of understanding and translating. Across the crackly airwaves of that all architecture is form shaped by the conflict of one thing with another where history, culture and canon is bent by the prevailing winds. Where architecture is shaped by alignment of things far beyond its own circumstance. And that occasionally these forces have the possibility to manifest shining and magical like a rainbow.

– Sam Jacob Studio