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Ballardian Architecture: Inner and Outer Space

Author: • Aug 17th, 2010 •

Category: academia, architecture, brutalism, features, Guy Debord, Iain Sinclair, Lead Story, modernism, photography, Shanghai, spectacle, W.G. Sebald


Modelling and photography by Nicholas Cobb.

This was the first office building to be constructed at the business park, but after a bombastic overture the architecture that followed was late modernist in the most minimal and self-effacing way, a machine above all for thinking in.

J.G. Ballard, Super-Cannes.


Recently, London’s Royal Academy of Arts hosted the symposium Ballardian Architecture: Inner and Outer Space:

Acclaimed writer JG Ballard derived inspiration from aspects of the built environment that architectural convention and critics tend to overlook. His novels offer many insights into the flaws and consequences of the shopping centres, car parks, hotels, office towers and housing projects that make up so much of contemporary architectural endeavour. This forum traces several themes in Ballard’s literary analysis of the contemporary built environment, including the concept of spectacle and role of the media in contemporary society, and how “invisible literatures” such as scientific journals, technical manuals, pornography, advertising copy can be seen as a literary counterpart to pop art and the “brutalist” aesthetic of modernity.

Three longer papers are followed by a series of brief but powerful commentaries which each open up particular insights into Ballard’s work, and together explore how Ballard’s perceptions may challenge and inform contemporary architecture.

Film has now been posted online of each discussion, and we have reproduced the presentations below. You can also download mp3s of the talks.

The event was chaired by Jeremy Melvin. Speakers included John Gray, Nic Clear, David Cunningham, Nigel Coates, Matthew Taunton, Chris Hall, Joanne Murray, Dan Holdsworth, Tim Abrahams and Claire Walsh. Thank you to Static TV for supplying the footage.


..::: Previously on ballardian.com:

+ Re-Placing the Novel: Sinclair, Ballard and the Spaces of Literature, by David Cunningham
+ A Near Future: Nic Clear’s Tribute to JG Ballard
+ Stereoscopic Urbanism: JG Ballard and the Built Environment
+ ‘Architectures of the Near Future': An Interview with Nic Clear
+ ‘Because we’re fucked': Skinner vs Gray


Ballardian Architecture 1: John Gray

Ballardian Architecture 1 – John Gray from static tv on Vimeo.

John Gray, author and philosopher, identifies correspondences between Ballard’s work and Guy Debord’s notion of the spectacle, discussing certain ramifications for contemporary economic and social phenomena.


Ballardian Architecture 2: Nic Clear

Ballardian Architecture 2 – Nic Clear from static tv on Vimeo.

Nic Clear, architect and lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture, delivers a paper entitled ‘J.G. Ballard is an Enemy of the Architectural Profession’.


Ballardian Architecture 3: David Cunningham

Ballardian Architecture 3 – David Cunningham from static tv on Vimeo.

David Cunningham, University of Westminster, examines architectural aspects of Ballard’s prose, exploring corresponding tendencies in the writings of Iain Sinclair and W.G. Sebald.


Ballardian Architecture 4: Session 1 Discussion

Ballardian Architecture 4 – Session 1 Discussion from static tv on Vimeo.

Session 1 concludes with a discussion featuring speakers John Gray, David Cunningham and Nic Clear. The discussion is chaired by Jeremy Melvin, and features contributions from members of the audience.


Ballardian Architecture 5: Nigel Coates

Ballardian Architecture 5 – Nigel Coates from static tv on Vimeo.

Nigel Coates, architect and lecturer, discusses the influence of Ballard’s writings upon a number of his architectural projects, as well as reviewing work by some of his students at the Royal College of Art.


Ballardian Architecture 6: Matthew Taunton

Ballardian Architecture 6 – Matthew Taunton from static tv on Vimeo.

Matthew Taunton, author and academic, investigates Ballard’s 1960 short story ‘Chronopolis’, highlighting Ballard’s engagement with modernist urbanism and his response to Taylorism and Fordism.


Ballardian Architecture 7: Chris Hall

Ballardian Architecture 7 – Chris Hall from static tv on Vimeo.

Chris Hall, journalist and writer, analyses architectural aspects of Ballard’s short story ‘The Terminal Beach’.


Ballardian Architecture 8: Joanne Murray

Ballardian Architecture 8 – Joanne Murray from static tv on Vimeo.

Joanne Murray, lecturer and Birkbeck PhD candidate, discusses formal characteristics of Ballard’s art and writing in relation to New Brutalist architecture.


Ballardian Architecture 9: Dan Holdsworth

Ballardian Architecture 9 – Dan Holdsworth from static tv on Vimeo.

Dan Holdsworth, artist, discusses his photographs, highlighting architectural motifs and visual tendencies that reflect aspects in Ballard’s prose.


Ballardian Architecture 10: Tim Abrahams

Ballardian Architecture 10 – Tim Abrahams from static tv on Vimeo.

Tim Abrahams, journalist and Associate Editor of ‘Blueprint’ magazine, discusses Ballard’s Shanghai-set, semi-autobiographical novel ‘Empire of the Sun’ in relation to the Shanghai Expo 2010.


Ballardian Architecture 11: Session 2 Discussion

Ballardian Architecture 11 – Session 2 Discussion from static tv on Vimeo.

Session 2 concludes with a discussion featuring speakers Dan Holdsworth, Nigel Coates, Tim Abrahams, Chris Hall, Joanne Murray and Matthew Taunton. The discussion is chaired by Gavin Parkinson, and features contributions from members of the audience.


Ballardian Architecture 12: Claire Walsh

Ballardian Architecture 12 – Claire Walsh from static tv on Vimeo.

Claire Walsh, editor, researcher and J.G. Ballard’s partner, discusses Ballard’s life and interests in a presentation that closes the proceedings of the forum.

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4 Responses »

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Simon Sellars, Genevieve Tucker. Genevieve Tucker said: RT @Ballardian: On ballardian.com, film of discussions at the Ballardian Architecture: Inner and Outer Space symposium, Royal Academy: http://bit.ly/aGE0F2 [...]

  2. Simon: I haven’t listened to all these presentations yet, but I thought you might like to know that in “Session 2 Discussion” Ballard’s sister, Margaret Richardson, is recognizable as the woman who first makes comments and asks a question from the audience. She begins by referring to him as “Jimmy…”, which no one else does, and she says a couple of interesting things: she claims that JGB was actually quite diffident about his own architectural knowledge, and she stresses how many films he saw, and how frequently he would go to the cinema when young. These are things, I would guess, that a sister would know better than anyone else in that room.

  3. [...] auseiandersetzten, wurden von Ballards Motiven beeinflusst. Durch Sellars’ Blog wurde ich nun auf ein Symposium der Londoner Royal Academy of Arts aufmerksam, das 2010 stattfand und den Titel Ballardian Architecture: Inner and Outer Space trug. Die [...]

  4. [...] exactly Ballardian but more a generally flat, raw Eastern European feel of indistinct / functional municipality [...]

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