The right honorable Baron Foster of Thames Bank—architect of such high-tech wonders as London’s Big Gherkin, and the Deutsche Bank in Sydney—loves his Alex Moulton space frame bicycle. No need to read testimonials, when proof aplenty lies right there in the pictures. All Norm’s buildings look like his bike. The tetrahedral geometries. The articulated joints. The fetish for nickel. But what are the primeval, Freudian sources of his amour? Where in this coupling doth lie the anima and amimus? What could explain his placing of the back wheel on a bench, the front on a chair, so as to draw the lubricated parts of his Moulton close to the tip of his tie in this way?
From left: an erotic embrace; sexual feelings for space frames revealed in London; a kinkier version built in New York; space frames and the female anatomy.
First, it is silver. Hi Tech architects are of the generation who bought big silver stereo systems with their first pay packs when they got real jobs after uni. (I’m valor bound not to dwell on the whole ELO thing, or Ummagumma). In fact they spent so much on their separate components, big nobs and huge speakers, they will not so much as countenance one of today’s tiny Bose speakers. "No, I can’t hear it," they will say to your face. In any case, silver, for the exponent of hi-tech, remains the colour of progress.
Second, the Moulton (to quote Michael Sorkin lampooning Richard Rogers’s Patscenter), is "marshaled with bone headed rigor." Rigor counts for a great deal to the pre-post-structuralist thinker. The idea is to start with a premise Socrates could shoot down in an instant, then carry it through in a way Plato would praise. Premise: small wheels go faster. Therefore step one: make bike with small wheels. Step two: weigh bike down with suspension to compensate for problem of your own making. Step three, the three P’s: Post-rationalize, Post-rationalize, Post-rationalize. I think the architectural historian Charles Jencks said about as much of high-tech buildings in general.
All that aside, would you do me one favour? Next time you are in Sydney’s Domain, and some footy mad Aussie tells you there are goal posts on the roof of 126 Phillip Street, would you please let them know it’s a bike? Thank you so muchly.