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Blobitecture

Blobitecture is curvy architecture, fluid protoplasmic shapes that completely redefine what a building ought to look like. You can now find examples in many cities, because adventurous architects are using computer-aided design systems to create structures that would otherwise be impossible to realise. Examples are Norman Foster’s Swiss Re building in London (dubbed the Erotic Gherkin) and Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

The word has been known in the architectural world for some years but the oldest appearance in print I can find is in William Safire’s On Language column in December 2002, in which he says that its precursor blob architecture was coined in 1995 by the architect Greg Lynn. He based it on binary large object, or BLOB, a technical term for a computer representation of an object; that blob is also a good word for the amoeboid buildings that can result is no coincidence.

The word appeared in the title of a book by John K Waters in 2003 and the year after in Next Generation Architecture by Joseph Rosa. Everywhere it is mildly pejorative, but in Britain it is further coloured by mental associations with an excessively rotund and very silly pink character with yellow spots called Mr Blobby, who became famous in the early 1990s in Noel Edmonds’ Saturday night BBC television show Noel’s House Party.

In large part, blobitecture derives its forms from an architect’s interpretation of natural organic forms, but also depends on the advanced use of computer modeling to ensure that the evolving design is structurally stable.

Wikipedia, 17 May 2005

Not only does the new Queen Mary building point towards a fresh and confident future for hospital design, it is also doing wonders for the reputation of its architect, the flamboyant Will Alsop, whose toy-like “blobitecture” and mad-hatter plans for reviving towns in northern England with designs that resemble, among other things, Marge Simpson’s hairdo, have earned him as many brickbats as plaudits.

Guardian, 6 Jun. 2005

Page created 23 Jul. 2005

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This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-blo2.htm
Last modified: 23 July 2005.