Skip to content


Architecture in Motion

A colleague described a project in Atlanta years ago.  It was a building sited off of an expressway.  Although the building was envisioned to have the typical sort of menu of architectural experiences – approach, enter, inhabit – it was noted that most people would experience this building differently.  Most would experience this building while in motion – at a high rate of speed while travelling along the expressway. They would never experience the interior spaces of this building.  My colleague described a new software program that simulated this experience while travelling in either direction down the expressway.

My previous post questioned the sensation of the morning commute, it was an argument based on the mode of conveyance being architecture in itself.  This post, however, is describing the sequence of events that experience architecture, and describing that experience in motion as being architectural in itself.

The Seattle Monorail travelling through the Music Project Experience
The Seattle Monorail travelling through the Experience Music Project

Take the Seattle Alweg Monorail as an example. In itself, the Monorail may be “architecture’, the Monorail in itself has that sort of exuberant giddiness that makes a dreary commute quite special.  Its glassy rail cars take a route from the Seattle Center going Downtown that travel through a succession of differing spaces of differing sizes and scales, a kind of spontaneous architecture.  Recently, the Experience Music Project, designed by Frank Gehry, was built along the Monorail route.  Though the Monorail does not stop at the EMP, it travels through it, as a very conscious architectural experience. The Project is experienced in motion, and it was planned that way.  The motion of taking the Monorail through the EMP becomes a musical experience in itself.  Some believe that travelling through the EMP by Monorail is as important as is the more traditional experience of approach, enter and inhabit while on foot.

Our cities have individual “nodes” of architectural experience, but fall short of planning the path between the nodes as an architectural experience.  Nothing superlative or the sort the usual arguments that get touted as the reason why an architectural experience can only consist of goobers stuck on a roadway, and that these goobers add another twenty per cent to the cost of a project, making everyone wonder – quite rightfully – why we should pay anything extra to have goobers on our roadways. What I’m advocating is to simply plan and arrange the elements in between to offer an architectural experience while in motion.  We work with spaces that large, just plan them architecturally.

As an aside – sort of – Chicago is mourning the closure of an amusement park “Kiddieland”, located just beyond the edge of Oak Park.  It had juvenile sized amusement rides, and even some larger attractions.  No one is going to forget the Ferris wheel, the Little Dipper roller coaster, the Scrambler, the log flume, the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Flying Elephants, the antique Carousel and especially not the Kiddieland Express.  No one will forget them because they made motion very amusing.  Even the path these amusement rides took provided a structured sequence of experiences that provided a rudimentary “architecture in motion” experience.  Few people are realizing that this structured sequence is what made Kiddieland so enjoyable, and so memorable.

Kiddieland: A place with tremendous experiences iof spatial motion approached by a very dreary sequence of spatial experiences
Kiddieland: A place with tremendous experiences of spatial motion approached by a very dreary sequence of spatial experiences

 Not at all difficult to achieve in our overall built environment.

Posted in Architecture, History, Pop Culture, Transit, Urban Planning.