Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Star Trek & Sixties Design, 6: The Wright Stuff

[See also Starship & Museum posts]

"Space. The continual becoming: invisible fountain from which all rhythms flow and to which they must pass. Beyond time or infinity."
--Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)

"Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its 5 year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."
--Star Trek, The Original Series (1966 - 1969)

The starship Enterprise (above).

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of New York City (above, top and below), which opened in the fall of 1959, six months after Wright's death.

Looking backward takes as much imagination as looking forward.

Once something comes into being, it's hard to remember or imagine the world without it. In the mid-1950s, for instance, Saarinen envisioned his Tulip chairs and tables, with their supporting central pedestals, as clearing the cluttered lines of office spaces, or, as he put it curing "the slum of legs." Now they're so normal, they're almost boring, unless you re-imagine the time when four-legged tables and chairs were the unquestioned norm.

Just recently I started wondering how the look of Star Trek reflected the world of 1960s design. More or less on a whim, I started looking around. I tell you, it's blowing my mind, all the intersections of ideas and images I'm finding. I was born into the era, in 1961, and in some new ways I'm seeing my life as History.

The humanmade things around us are not accidents--whether they're real objects, like coffee pots and boots, or imagined ones, like starships and alien planets. Their design expresses the collective imagination of a place and a time. So when we look closely, imaginatively, at these objects, we see where we were and who we were.
If we can do this, if we can imagine our history, we can imagine the possibility of future designs, designs that might free us from the slum of habit, a slum we may not even know we're in until we realize, gee, it--that chair, that building, that wallpaper of my life--doesn't have to look like that.

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