5.3 Critical Reflection: Second Draft

Although now still and dormant, the 1934 structure stands as an exemplification to the outstanding engineering work executed at Q121. Mahogany fan blades, outdated control rooms and concrete tunnels may contribute to an obsolete perception, however it was formerly the greatest innovation of aeronautical and aerodynamic development. Two immense concrete openings face each other. One is a colossal wooden fan designed to drag air through the void separating them, where aeroplanes as well as automobiles were placed for experimentation. At the rear of the fan lays the tunnel with concrete airfoils meticulously positioned to turn the air, four times through 90 degrees without loosing speed. This building is not a framework that inhabits a machine, Q121 is a machine itself.

The historical value that this buildings holds is one that should not be disregarded. The building now serves as an appreciable connection to our past and bears remembrance to periods when technology was tangible, a time when you could see the mechanics of how things worked. It is with this thought where the concept for my project derived; a space that showcases and reveals a product of today’s cutting edge technology, which nowadays is more often concealed. The result of today’s innovative technology and applied science is a machine that embodies all the characteristics Q121 resembles; power, precision, speed and performance. A machine that is so reliant on its aerodynamic efficiency that millions of pounds are spent on research and development within the field every year. This machine is the Formula 1 car.


Q121 will serve as a treasury for McLaren to present and expose the development of their cars, leading up to the unveiling of their latest machine. The array of cars presented will provide a visual demonstration of McLarens restless technical development and provide users with the opportunity to study their cars and mechanical details in a dynamic environment. Aerodynamics is the ultimate paramountcy in the performance of a Formula 1 car. The form is a result of this applied science. These cars are not designed for luxury, they are designed for efficiency, they look ‘mean’. Even when static every aspect of a Formula 1 car identifies with speed, power and momentum. It is this notion of dynamics that will be translated into my design. The challenge now is how to embody these characteristics within a fixed environment? Futurist painter Giacomo Balla embodies the essence of speed in his paintings, through the use of means that signify motion. By understanding the approaches Balla used to imply movement, I can begin to translate and interpret these means into my design.


The Futurist movement celebrated advanced technology and works produced during this era demonstrated modernity, illustrating the machine and speed. The technological developments during this period were a substantial influence in the resolution of displaying movement, developing an abstract art form accompanying rhythmic and vibrating attributes.  Giacomo Balla’s 1913 work Speeding Car (FIG???) serves as an excellent example of Futurist paintings of movement. Balla visualised the elements of a quote from J.F. Moretti’s 1909 Futurist Manifesto:


“We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath … a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.” The Futurist Manifesto (1909). 



FIG ?? Giacomo Balla, Speeding Car (1913) 

Traditional methods were not suitable in portraying the sights and sounds of modernity and as a result classical techniques were declined. Balla’s method of using densely shaded directional lines that pierce through the arcs, denote charge from left to right. These force lines imply the automobile is moving at high speed. This method of breaking away from tradition is detectable within the placement of my grid structure; a frame work was formed using Q121’s exciting geometry (FIG??) then distorted at a 45 degree angle to create a new set of axis lines. The importance of using the existing geometry as a guideline ensures the new grid structure sustains a connection with the site. By creating an additional set of axis lines, added insertions following these paths penetrate the original structure, suggesting powerful force lines as seen in Balla’s Speeding Car. (FIG??) This notion of charged angled lines is my interpretation of Balla’s technique. The arrangement of using angled lines (created by displacing the existing geometry) deliberately conflicts the existing structure, reinforcing the view of dynamics within the space. The formation of the new vector lines also allows for new planes and volumes (or force lines) to direct attention towards Q121’S previous experimentation area. (FIG??) The testing area will house the reveal of McLarens latest machine, and is my reasoning behind directing axis lines towards it. The outdated and silenced fans acting as a backdrop for unveiling the latest in today’s cutting edge technology will provide a juxtaposed space, demonstrating the advances in cutting edge technology then compared to cutting edge now. This will present a tangible connection with how far technology and aerodynamic research has developed and allows the former use of the building to remain the focal area, whilst connecting Q121’s history with its new function.


One of the technological advancements that influenced Balla’s style of work was chronophotography, a method used to photograph movement displayed across an array of frames. The progress of this science was a substantial influence in the resolution of displaying movement, developing into an abstract art form that accompanied rhythmic attributes. As outlined in the Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto

“Indeed, all things move, all things run, all things are rapidly changing. A profile is never motionless before our eyes, but it constantly appears and disappears. On account of the persistency of an image upon the retina, moving objects constantly multiply themselves; their form changes like rapid vibrations, in their mad career. Thus a running horse has not four legs, but twenty, and their movements are triangular.”  (Balla et al, 1910). 

Progressive rhythm was an important approach used to illustrate movement. Rhythm is composed by repeated patterns fabricating a sequence. Rhythmic flow (produced through repetition) is frequently used as a means to propose movement and a factor Balla used to increase the perception of movement within his paintings. This is one of the methods I will adopt within my design to characterise a dynamic environment. These repeating forms will shift providing alterations in negative space that expand and reduce. This change in negative space provides suggestion of movement and will support my concept when used throughout the design.


Despite being only a visionary, the manifesto of Futurist architecture highlights the intentions and motives for the movement. Futurists fascination with modernity and the machine forms a strong connection with my concept. By interpreting some of the Futurists visions into my design, this will contribute to developing a dynamic environment that suggests speed and motion. to and supports my reason for using it as a design influence. One of the statements proclaimed within the manifesto was

That decoration as an element superimposed on architecture is absurd, and that the decorative value of Futurist architecture depends solely on the use and original arrangement of raw or bare or violently colored materials; (1914).

This idea that the functionality of the use is more important than the decorative value is an occurrent theme within the construction of Q121 and Formula 1 cars. Both are designed for functionality and performance and remain honest to their materials. This is a theme I wish to continue to ensure the proposed new use for Q121 remains connected with the existing context. By adopting this method and discerning the use of decorative elements, the honesty of materials, that sense of ‘rawness’  will carry through.  Added insertions will expose features that will provides guests with the opportunity to visualise the mechanics behind components that are nowadays often concealed. This will be visible within the reveal area, where a shaft tower will descend from the mezzanine level allowing guests to observe the latest Formula 1 car, suspended within the former testing area. The shaft tower will be exposed so guests can observe the mechanics behind it, a conceptual image is used for visual reference. (FIG??)



Along with the techniques outlined, the display of the classic Formula 1 cars will also support a visually dynamic environment. Staying true to the Futurist theme of ‘breaking tradition’ the cars will not be typically displayed. Suspended from ceilings, vertical and horizontal placements and cars speeding through walls will continue to reinforce the translation of motion within my design.










Appollonio, U (2009) Futurist Manifestos. London: Tate Publishing, p.19

Balla, G., Boccioni, C., Carra, C. and Russelo, L. (1910) ‘Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto’ In: Rainey, L. Poggi, C and Wittman, L (ed.) (2009) Futurism: An Anthology. New Haven: Yale University Press. 64-67.


Duffy, E. (2009) The Speed Handbook; Velocity, Pleasure, Modernism. Durham and London, Duke University Press, pp. 173-17

Marinetti, F. T. (1909) The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism. In: Appollonio, U ed. Futurist Manifestos. London: Tate Publishing, p. 19.


Rainey, L., Poggi, C. and Wittman, L. (ed.) (2009)  Futurism: An Anthology. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 64-67.

Sant’Elia, A (1914) Manifesto of Futurist Architecture. In: Appollonio, U (ed.) (2009) Futurist Manifestos. London: Tate Publishing, p.170.




http://silenceandvoice.com/2010/02/06/an-elevator-speech-for-research/      – lift


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