A MAD, MAD future

Absolute Tower, by MAD

I’m looking forward to seeing this building in person. Scheduled for completion in 2010, the 50-story Absolute Tower will be located in the condo-choked heart of my home, um, sprawl of Mississauga, Ontario, and promises to nudge the city in a far more interesting visual direction. The building was designed by Beijing-based MAD (an abbreviation of Ma Design, after its founding architect Yansong Ma), a studio that hews to a philosophy of “futurism” – reflective, no doubt, of the firm’s active participation in developing China’s revolutionary urban aesthetic. “Here,” says Ma in an interview, “it is possible to do anything.”

Of course, by “futurism” I’m pretty sure MAD means to invoke the awestruck optimism of World’s Fairs and 1960s science fiction, rather than the early-twentieth-century anarcho-fascism of F.T. Marinetti. Yet in a way this new futurism may stand in relation to post-modernist architecture as the old futurism stood against neo-classicism, and the words of 1914’s Manifesto of Futurist Architecture (ostensibly written by Italian architect Antonio Sant’Elia) thus do not seem entirely out of place in this day and age:

The decorative must be abolished. The problem of Futurist architecture must be resolved, not by continuing to pilfer from Chinese, Persian or Japanese photographs or fooling around with the rules of Vitruvius, but through flashes of genius and through scientific and technical expertise. Everything must be revolutionized. Roofs and underground spaces must be used; the importance of the façade must be diminished; issues of taste must be transplanted from the field of fussy moldings, finicky capitals and flimsy doorways to the broader concerns of bold groupings and masses, and large-scale disposition of planes. Let us make an end of monumental, funereal and commemorative architecture. Let us overturn monuments, pavements, arcades and flights of steps; let us sink the streets and squares; let us raise the level of the city.

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