On the Buses: Mobile Architecture in Australia and the UK, 1973-75
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During the early 1970s, within a broader climate of social, political and institutional upheaval, students of architecture sought opportunities to redefine the architectural project beyond traditional education and practice. While these activities often involved highly speculative drawn and modelled projects, DIY structures or performance-based works, this paper examines instead the use of mobile architecture through a series of retrofitted bus projects from the period. Perhaps the most well-known example, the AD/AA/Polyark bus, was the outcome of collaboration between Architectural Design, the Architectural Association London and Cedric Price. In 1973, the same year the AD/AA/Polyark bus departed London, students at the University of Queensland, Australia, also embarked on tours of rural Queensland and New South Wales in their adapted double-decker bus, the Mobile Design Research Unit. The following year students at the University of Sydney undertook an eight-month tour of Australia as part of their own retrofitted bus project, the Australian Communications Capsule. While the AD/AA/Polyark project was an extension of the Architectural Association, both the Mobile Design Research Unit and the Australian Communications Capsule appear to have operated outside of any formal arrangement with the university. Through their mobility, the buses facilitated modes of interaction between architectural thinking and the broader community, while creating physical distance between these practices and their institutional connections. At stake was the question of architecture’s agency within its broader socio-political context. This paper describes a moment during the early to mid-1970s when mobility operated as a tool for alternative modes of architectural education and practice.
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Architectural History and Theory