A rainy night in London: architecture and pyrotechnics

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Fireworks 2009: 6th November, in Bedford Square.

In the pouring rain, a crowd of stalwarts watch the restaging of Bernard Tschumi’s 1974 fireworks display – Architectural Manifesto 1 – First Works, outside the AA School in Bedford Square. This architectural event is conceived by Bernard Tschumi and is a re-enactment of a fireworks show realised in 1974 at the AA by Tschumi and a group of tutors and students including Nigel Coates. According to the author, Fireworks 1974 was conceived ‘as making a point about the pleasure of architecture and the beauty of its uselessness, and realised through a «détournement» (or creative misuse) of Guy Fawkes Day’. The work, together with a short text, was shown originally at the RCA exhibition Space: A Thousand Words, and published in 1978 as the first of Bernard Tschumi’s Architectural Manifestos (a key contribution to the tendency that became known as The London Conceptualists).

Fireworks, a recurrent topic throughout Tschumi’s career, were also used to inaugurate one of his most celebrated designs, Parc de la Villette in Paris, which displayed another splendid pyrotechnic event choreographed by the architect in 1991. Fireworks 2009 returns to Tschumi’s first obsessions about decoding the close-knit relations between events, actions and spaces, and how these might be deployed through complex notation systems which have seduced several generations of architects.

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