Models and the architecture of Thunderbirds

Over the last few weeks at The Building Centre we’ve been exploring new directions in architectural modeling – virtual, augmented, physical – looking at how these forms and visualizations are changing the built environment. Meanwhile John Grindrod, author of Concretopia: A Journey Around the Rebuilding of Postwar Britain, has been looking at the architectural impact of models from an earlier age (thanks Darran Anderson @oniropolis)

On his blog Dirty Modern Scoundrel, Grindrod highlights architecture that could have appeared in the work of 60s kids TV futurists Gerry and Sylvia Anderson – makers of Thunderbirds among other series. The blog post highlights an extraordinary set of buildings from Engineering Research Station, Killingworth designed by Ryder and Yates to Welbeck Street Car Park by Michael R. Blampied and Partners. Futuristic enough to merit a place in the world of 60s sci-fi. Grindrod desrcibes Stirling and Gowan's University of Leicester Engineering Building (see feature here) "part rocket launcher, part lunar module."

(Welbeck Street Car Park, Photographer Artur Salisz Creative Commons Licence)

It’s easy to forget the extent to which Thunderbirds was a thinly-disguised paean to engineering, the camera lingering on the technology transforming a modernist family home into rocket launch pad. The rescue storylines were essentially feats of engineering and heavy-duty machinery. Which other sci-fi show would feature a tunnelling machine called the "Mole" as a desirable piece of futuristic kit? Thunderbirds combined International Style with International Rescue and delivered it via an obession with hyper-engineering. Foresight? Resolving the built environment and its disasters was simply a matter of selecting the right machine, already imagined and constructed to do exactly the job required (see Daniel Wright's blog The Beauty of Transport)

It’s recently been announced that a Kickstarter campaign has raised the cash for a new series of Thunderbirds to be made – in the old style with old technology. But they're digitally mapping the original for accuracy! Nostalgia? A curiosity about process? An unhealthy obsession with an exclusively analogue idea of craft? A much-debated topic of discussion in the Drawn to the Future events was the charm of the models, the models as a kind of charm themselves that create an atmosphere of goodwill and wonder. 

Which visionary buildings would you like to see in the new series of Thunderbirds

For those trapped in a puppetry swamp of nostalgia, rescue is at hand, click here to download the plans to make the original  Blue Peter homemade version of Tracy Island

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