It seems entirely appropriate that news of Zaha Hadid’s design for the Innovation Tower at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University should disseminate through the science fiction blog IO9. Hadid’s swooning forms appear otherworldly on the Hong Kong waterfront, although once built it will probably seem less like something on the cover of a Frank Herbert novel. Sci-fi urban landscapes tend to spring from the minds of book cover illustrators, even in movies, hence the uniform color palettes and curved forms. There have been attempts to incorporate this largely graphic visual form into designs for buildings. The Second Skin architecture movement was inspired by the eccentric writing methods of science fiction writer A.E. van Vogt, and it produces forms that are neither organic nor mechanical, but some place in between. Much earlier, John Ruskin wanted architecture to capture the spirit of science. If architects could somehow render in visual form the revelatory promise of science, Ruskin claims in The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1857), Western culture would return to "the beginning of days" when the "sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar."
As Rem Koolhaas has pointed out, architecture is an otherworldly profession, designing buildings for the primeval world before big box discount stores and Trump Towers polluted the landscape. Hadid’s tower for Hong Kong Polytechnic University expresses this start-all-over-again strain in architecture. In this way the Innovation Tower is a science fiction object not just in its superficial resemblance to Hollywood science fiction movies, but in the genre’s utopian dimension.
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