Since 2009, an annual Thrilling Wonder Stories event has taken place at the Architectural Association in London, bringing people together from multiple disciplines to explore the spaces between fiction, science, and design.
On one hand, these events take the form of an extended look into the role of architectural spaces—including real buildings, but also film sets, computer game environments, and spatial simulations—in propelling, staging, catalyzing, or otherwise framing narrative storylines. This requires speaking not only to architects, but to novelists, game developers, screenwriters, film set designers, and even Hollywood directors to discuss their own particular requirements for, and relationships to, the built environment—but also to ask, more specifically, how the spaces they design, describe, feature, or build affect the development of narrative.
This is the cultural dimension of the event—the “wonder stories.”
On the other hand, Thrilling Wonder Stories has also looked both to science and science fiction as resources of ideas that might play spatial roles in future design projects—where I use the word spatial, not architectural, very deliberately, so as not to limit this to a discussion of buildings. This means bringing in robot makers and biologists, geologists and geneticists, not to ask them about architecture but simply to learn about their work. The point, in other words, is not to extract architectural ideas from their research—as if fully formed building programs could somehow be pulled from a presentation about synthetic organisms—but simply to add to the overall mix of scientific (and science fictional) ideas available for reference in future design conversations.
This is the “thrilling wonder” side of the series.
To date, Liam Young, the event’s co-organizer, and I have hosted comics author Warren Ellis, architect Sir Peter Cook of Archigram, game critic Jim Rossignol, TED Fellow and architectural biologist Rachel Armstrong, novelists Will Self and Jeff VanderMeer, spatial provocateurs Ant Farm, designer Matt Webb of BERG, and more than a dozen other figures from the worlds of film, gaming, architecture, literature, engineering, science, interaction design, and more.
This year, we’re trying out an ambitious new format. Not only are we teaming up with Popular Science magazine as our media partner and co-organizer—so watch for content on popsci.com in the lead up to and during the event—but we are leading two simultaneous events: one at the Architectural Association in London, the other across the pond at Studio-X NYC.
So, on Friday, October 28th, Thrilling Wonder Stories 3—sponsored by the Architectural Association, Studio-X NYC, and Popular Science—kicks off in London with a truly phenomenal line-up. It’s an all day blow-out, lasting from noon to 10pm, featuring:
Scifi author, commentator, and futurist
Game designer and theorist of “how algorithms shape our world“
Digital media artist and experimental architect
CHARLIE TUESDAY GATES
Taxidermy artist and sculptor—to lead a live taxidermy workshop
DR. RODERICH GROSS AND THE NATURAL ROBOTICS LAB
Head of the Natural Robotics Lab at the University of Sheffield—to lead a live Swarm Robotics demonstration
Concept artist for Duncan Jones’s film Moon
Designer, technologist, and researcher at the Los Angeles-based Near Future Laboratory
RADIO SCIENCE ORCHESTRA
Theremin-led electro-acoustic ensemble
Music, composition, and sound design for film and television
That same day—Friday, October 28th—over at Studio-X NYC, Thrilling Wonder Stories 3 will kick off at 1pm local time, lasting till 4 or 4:30pm. Speaking that day are:
NICHOLAS DE MONCHAUX
Architect and author of Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo
Architect, WSJ Magazine 2011 architectural innovator of the year, and author of Yes Is More: An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution
Science writer, senior editor of Popular Science, and author of Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy
Then, Saturday, October 29th, everything comes to a close with an epic second day—from 2-7pm—at Studio-X NYC, featuring:
Historian and author of Fixing The Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control
Science writer for the Washington Post and author of First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth
Journalist and author of Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet
Architect and co-director of The Living
Researcher and educator in biological materials and engineering design, featured in Wired UK‘s 2010 “Year In Ideas”
Researcher in evolutionary robotics and the future of 3D printing at Cornell University
Designer at Autodesk Research working on the intersection of bio-nanotechnology and 3D visualization
Insect agriculturalist at Small Stock Foods
Bioengineer of in-vitro edible muscle protein and CEO of Zymotech Enterprises
Science writer and open-source biologist, focusing on bacterial genomics
The events in New York will be moderated by myself, Studio-X NYC co-director Nicola Twilley, and PopSci senior associate editor Ryan Bradley. In both locations, events are free and open to the public; however, if you plan on attending the Studio-X NYC event, please register as limited space will be available. Here’s a map.
[Image: The “plastic” extruded by New England’s Colletes inaequalis bees; photo by Debbie Chachra].
Finally, if you can’t make it in person, consider following Thrilling Wonder Stories on Twitter—and keep your eye out at the end of summer 2012, for the Thrilling Wonder Stories book, published by the Architectural Association.
But I hope to see some of you there!
*Vincenzo Natali will be speaking via Skype.