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The Happiness Machine by Mark Lascelles Thornton

Cities have become increasingly obsessed with images and image-making. Iconic buildings often have a narcotic effect that diminishes social and political awareness. Architectural design is threatened to be reduced to the superficial play of seductive forms; while the urban space of lived experience has been downgraded to a codified system of signification.

The “Happiness Machine” reminds us that “space” is the flesh that flatters the bones of architecture. And brings back to light the fact that “to change life is to change space; to change space is to change life”. British artist Mark Lascelles Thornton reclaims the city-scapes as a decisive “lived moment”. He approaches places of megalopolis (such as London, Chicago, New York, Shanghai, and Taipei) that are constructed not only of steel and concrete but of ideas. He engraves the urban environment as a thought experience.

The “Happiness Machine” story begins on ground level, with footsteps. With an artist, a citizen who resists to adopt the operation of walking as an activity similar to window shopping. After all a place can not be made habitable or believable only by clothing it with a “word”. It needs narration. A narration that rests upon the ability to form an urban environment where we encounter with people and we project ideas.

The “Happiness Machine” by collecting the world’s most iconic architectural superstructures forming an imaginary metropolis, moves the question regarding architectural production from “what” to “how”, from objectification to connotative creation. The project highlights a forgotten urban value; that the social innovation for our cities should be visible through the re- establishment of Architecture as a social art; as a means of making society and everyday life visible.

By viewing this picture we recall that the city is an oeuvre, closer to a work of art than to a material product of consumption. Our cities breathe through the wave of citizen’s memories that flows in, and thus the spaces are being transformed from acting as a reflection of society, to be the society.

Cities. Do we need a user’s manual? Do we comprehend space as process and in process? Have we reached the point to where the “lived” urban environment means the urbanisation of the mind?

Space. Urban space. Social space. Physical space… you name it, it has been colonised, commodified, bought and sold, used and abused, produced and torn down. But underneath the black and red ink layers of the “Happiness Machine”, lies the murmuring voice of society asking whether their city still exist as a vanishing act or a cultural dialogue.

Text by Maria Sfyraki

Maria is an architect, Urban Planner and curator from Athens.

For more information on Mark Lascelles thornton, The Happiness Machine and to buy prints, please CLICK HERE

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