Thursday, 16 December 2010

landscape for living + working

to read article on blueprint's website, click [here]

a review : the Crate Series @ Spring Projects : Studio Makkink & Bey fuses antiques + shipping crates and comes up with striking furniture, which tugs at the balance between work + play

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

please touch the art

a review : Move: Choreographing You @ Hayward : a diverse + hands-on exhibition of epic proportions has landed on the southbank - celebrating 50 years of experiments in visual arts + dance - if you're feeling daring enough, you could play an as important part of the show as the art.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

hope for a shrinking city

following its leading role [for 2 days] on blueprint's website, the dundee article experienced further celebrity, featuring on architectr [here] + in the ArchNewsNow newsletter [here] so thought it was about time that unpredictable first conversation took a peek :

As Kengo Kuma & Associates bask in the glory of a competition win to design V&A’s outpost museum in Dundee, so too can the rest of us celebrate a ray of light cutting through rabid cuts on culture. As the slogan professes, this project is happening, with doors opening in 2014; the V&A keen to prevent another doomed project on its conscience. The announcement marks the end of an international competition, which has shied away from the usual whispering discussions and secret agendas behind closed doors. Rather, we find a decision from a jury, which exposed itself to public scrutiny and vowed for the feedback to impact on the judgement. The recent news follows a public debate on the 6 shortlisted designs, in the shape of an exhibition and online forum discussions. The period has also witnessed accompanying public lectures from innovative thinkers on the subject, including Dr Kylie Message, author of the book New Museums and the Making of Culture. In a bid to raise the profile and maintain interest in the project, Message thoughtfully discussed the potential of a contemporary museum to not only shape public culture, but also influence local economics and politics.

The V&A forms part of a 30 year masterplan to reinvent the waterfront of Scotland’s 4th largest city and stitch Dundee back together, handing the controversial site back to the city. Already 10 years in, local authorities have been staunchly ploughing through ill considered planning decisions of years gone by in a thorough infrastructure rejig. The first notable building in the masterplan, and destined to be its jewel, is the V&A, which seeks to ‘promote a wider understanding and application of design.’ Right from the start, the competition sought a landmark building to be designed by an internationally renowned architect. Through a process of ‘design in action’, the galleries will focus on showcasing design, illustrating how objects are created, from initial spark to final product. In this essence, the design process of the museum itself will be open to consideration throughout.

I have personally found myself glued to the web discussions. Curiously, the one on Kuma captivated me more than the rest with its musings on the potential of the design to attract the city’s bird population to nest. This led to the post ‘strange worries’, begging us to ‘comment about the design and the way it interacts with the city instead of being just worried about pigeons’. Hear Hear. After all, this is the stage for design aspirations, and no place for worries of cost and weathering of undecided materials. The preoccupation with the glazed cuts in Kuma’s design prompted another comment: ‘to choose a building without ledges, without wind and without markings of water and tide is to choose a building unrelated to the chosen site.’ Indeed, Kuma’s aspiration has always been to create a coastal crag, hollowed by the elements. It is an exploration into the soft and dynamic relationships between river and city, a relationship which has been nothing but fraught since the disintegration of the industrial docks and rude arrival of the Tay road bridge which crashed into the middle of the city in 1966, vomiting dual carriageways in all possible directions, and thus sealing the deal on Dundee’s segregation with its waterfront. Of course, local residents may wonder why the architect had to deal with this contentious relationship in the first place; Kuma’s V&A will sit on a manmade peninsula while the city centre continues to be cruelly fragmented by vast empty sites of exclusive territory. Though not the fault of the architect, there is an argument for a more integrated V&A, where the new cultural institution disperses throughout the city.

An inherent problem with the term ‘landmark’, is that it has come to infer a generic object in a specific city; this paradox becomes particularly potent when combined with that other thrown-about term, the starchitect. There was much comment in the online forum on some of the designs resembling previous projects of the respective architect in different cities. While the immediate context of the museum remains abstract, yet-to-be-built parts of the waterfront, there is a lot to learn from this historic city; for example, how the brutal North Sea winds have defined the urban grid. Or how the redundant jute mills still stand as vast achievements in structure and solidarity but manage to use the topography to hide in the hill, shrinking to street level for a kiss. This questions how are we are to get intimate with the new V&A when it sits on the most remote part of the city: must we stretch out for a polite handshake?

If anywhere is in need of feeling the waft of a warm Basque breeze, it is the peripheral city of Dundee. A habitual sufferer of low confidence, it is a shrinking city, where high density has become the worst nightmare. The city’s present population matches that of 1870 [1971 saw an all time high of 182,000] yet its area is now double as suburbia sprawls into fields leaving huge swathes of central brownfield sites vacant. Dundee is an intimate city, which can be traversed by foot, from water to countryside in less than 2 hours, and arguably sits within the most stunning of British landscape, enjoying the prestige of being Scotland’s sunniest city. It rises up the northern edge of the firth of Tay, exposing the entire city to a unique expanse of water, which fills with the colour of a melting sun everyday, as quiet hills roll into the far distance. Back in the day, Dundee threw all its hopes of industrial prosperity into the 3 Js [jute, jam, journalism] and when they depleted, the city was left crushed and helpless.

Kengo Kuma’s win and the continuing energy of the project come as exciting and heart-warming news for Dundee, but equally for the rest of the nation. Here we have a project defiantly holding two fingers up at the coalition government, whose cuts suggest that an age of austerity must equal cultural drought. The collaboration between V&A and Dundee’s institutions chooses the new museum to drive economic growth and accepts that culture has an important social function. This is architecture that has captured the imagination of 13,000 people who have visited the competition, not forgetting ten times that number who have been on the website; this is more than the average gate at Tannadice Park, home of Dundee United. Dr Message pointed out that museums are far more than their architecture. Indeed, when the renovated McManus Galleries opened to crowds last year, dundonians realised they had a lot to be proud of and excited about on a local level; the V&A at Dundee will expand this to an international scale.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

and the winner is......

...... british culture

a comment piece on the recent announcement of kengo kuma's win to design the v&a at dundee,and what message this sends to the coalition
[shame about the renderings, which receive a big thumbs down...]

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

roll up, roll up

the december issue of Blueprint has hit the shelves and features my review of the Hawyard's current exhibition,
Move: Choreographing You [page 79]

Pick up a copy now to avoid disappointment!

Monday, 25 October 2010

cannibalising the city

a review : Klara Lidén @ Serpentine : trained as an architect, Lidén now energetically pursues the possibilities of a psychogeographic artist: challenging the way we experience our cities using whatever tools come to hand, from discarded billboard posters to quiet skylines.

hot off the press

matzine : little magazine, big ideas : issue no.5 ponders the theme of views and finds a wee story of mine in conversation with drawings, photographs +thoughts from a bunch of ambitious young architects, as compiled by ian pollard :

follow the links to print out your very own copy!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

the bird with two eyes : a tale of limbo

Another Monday morning, another twenty reasons not quite compelling enough to fully rouse, yet just one force of instinct overpowering enough to move and start the day to a silent applause. Hogan bursts through a groggy film into the burning light of outside and with a sudden grasp of unnecessary urgency, swoops downwards. Eyes locked on the treasure as grease blissfully glistening in the sun, an excited squawk irresistibly leaks out into the damp air upon approaching last night’s late night accident. The image flickers as if lit by a neglected light bulb swinging in some forgotten corner and as Hogan opens his jaw to collect the prize, his beak splinters into the shiny, blank tarmac. Damn. A pain in the chest squeezes tightly as another crack appears inside.

For a tale of Hogan’s everyday life is a heartbreaking tale of dichotomy, the sufferer of a curious condition of the urban brain by the name of Matischism, affectionately coined ‘two views’. For with the left eye, Hogan observes reality,as objective and comparable as can be, with the right however, he sees fantasy and most particularly, his very own fantasies, ingrained with a lifetime of intimately clicking synapses. Consequently, the matischist’s vision entails a patchwork quilt crafted from observations, memories, ambitions, emotions, achievements,productions... The boundaries between the two views are almost invisible, stitched neatly into a uniquely collaged panorama. Sparse research reveals that this anomaly is only found in those species dwelling at the heart of chaotic metropolises, attributed to lifelong nesting within the dense pollution that clings indiscriminately to every surface, forging certain cerebral connections vulnerableto the electric signals which relentlessly twitch through saturated air.

One main positive symptom of the condition is a beautifully hyperactive imagination
so potent it could drum up the throb of pulsing blood as greatly as full flapping
flight. Hogan holds the ability to experience exulting emotions of achievement
without actually achieving anything. Unfortunately for him and many other
matischists, he has found himself unable to avoid addiction to the right eye and
its fanciful world, convincingly held together by the rigidity of reality and
tugged into tangibility by the laws of mechanics. New worlds are given logical
appearance following conventional rules, yet filled entirely with greedy desires,
embracing thrill in the unfamiliar and temporary. Alas, moments of lucidity
highlight the trap of a helpless passion; the introspective world though totally
controlled and carefully pieced together by its owner appears utterly apathetic to
the bystander.

With a sigh, Hogan diligently closes his right eye, focussing on the primeval
task in hand before retreating back, belly full, to that troublesome nest, where
this time he indulgently seals the left eye and withdraws into ecstatic fantasy,
darting weightlessly through fresh air. That boring familiar vista neatly unfolded
out ahead for all to see rips like taut canvas as another world slightly askew
ploughs through, an elegant machine; the new fabric fluidly fills in the gaps and
repairs the tears, an irresistible dreamland. Imagination is no longer constrained
by context as static and solid, grid references of information morph into a sea of
ever changing relationships.

chalayan's hidden track ....for my writing debut at blueprint magazine

a review : B-Side @ Spring Projects : fashion designer turned artist, Hussein Chalayan, explores the deception of design by dissecting the mess and chaos behind the precious, final product through two pieces, which unsettle in very different ways. Air travel, religion and sushi are amongst the tools used in this investigation.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

the surreal house : a review

The Surreal House :
An unpredictable first conversation

For their latest artistic endeavour, the Barbican have taken on the role of the surrealist, or is it rather of the perverse architect, perhaps private detective is most suitable, seeking out unexpected relationships in our cities and subconscious alike. This is an event confronting complex ideas through equally complex methods and it should come as no surprise that such guests as Freud, Tati and Matta-Clark have been invited to join the usual suspects. The diligent readers amongst us will be told we are about to enter a dream; the rest are confronted with an inauspicious entrance through a pocket of darkness, hints of an identity at first nervously lurking out of grasp before becoming gloriously clear yet confusing all at once. The darkness is a doorway through closing eyelids, be sure to press Duchamp’s nipple to enter. Once eyes open again, a different world is laid out ahead, familiar but slightly askew, a world which Foucault might consider heterotopic; conventional rules no longer apply because the very syntax that holds words and things together has been destroyed, previously incompatible entities may now interact within the same space.

The first point to note is that The Surreal House is a true indulgence for architects and as such so is this article. Endeavouring to posit architecture within a series of decisions that are cultural, social and political reactions, it captures the age old tug of war in the profession between the real and the abstract, all the while in a dream-like state. The house is an all-encompassing and binding notion for us humans, it is of course a self portrait of its owner but also of its architect and builder. The official line of the exhibition is to highlight the importance of the house within surrealism, whether consciously or not however, we are conversely presented with the surrealism within the house, floating about in the heart of our domestic lives and the very humble roots of surrealist thought, a realisation that life need not make sense and is all the better for not. Louise Bourgeois’ Femme Maison, the most crucial of exhibit inclusions, beyond physical appearances, interplays house with mind as the box which encloses all emotions, its greatest function to contain these feelings without exploding or collapsing. The house/mind balances a manic spectrum of emotions, from ecstasy to despair, the beginnings and ends of lives, all that is not decisively, unequivocally ‘functional’. Therefore we are not dealing with the Modernist machine of functionality, with its perfection and plumbing; the presence of Villa Savoye’s dark days offers unanticipated comment via Tschumi. Here, architecture not only indulges in being an art, but also as a moving image, an art of experience that only works at eye level.

John Hejduk, on a blind date with Andrei Tarkovsky in a room coined The Sacrifice, was an architect whose work crafted a gateway to the quixotic subconscious of architecture’s brain, allowing a much denser, metaphorical world than the one we know and converse in. Through imagination and languages unseen before, Hejduk discussed the joy of any first conversation in its utter unpredictability, an infinite and non-elitist pool of inspiration for the creator. The Surreal House is one such first conversation, avoiding the predictability that a big London show labelled with surrealism so easily could have morphed into by carefully piecing together a thoughtful narrative. As with any influential, rule-inventing movement such as Surrealism, which has become so ingrained in everyday life, it is almost impossible to describe it as groundbreaking and innovative as it was at its inception, the new narrative rather allows new routes of enquiry, opening the mind for this to become at least a possibility. The narrative of The Surreal House is not a straightjacket, fencing in only the ideas that suit the look, no, it is outward looking with a welcome mat at its threshold. For this, Carmody Groarke must be congratulated as exhibition designers, for they have created spatial relationships as intrinsic to the event as the valuable art pieces themselves. A subtle yet adventurous procession contorts around the lower level between a series of containers, as the experience of being within the house[s], contrasted with the upper level, which acts as the step back, an investigation into the context and a sense of other worldliness.

Monday, 14 June 2010

the bigger picture II

the bigger picture I

feedback the shape of an orange post-it [the best kind]

Monday, 31 May 2010

goodbye studio

hello [the real] world....

nine months

degree show exhibition : an exploded view, after cornelia parker

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

chimney pot views

letting the city in.........+messing with it
[inspiration from dundee +its flying residents]

Monday, 24 May 2010

the play components

kit of parts : institution of interpretation

Sunday, 23 May 2010

royal scottish academy

rsa 184th annual exhibition 2010, edinburgh

[hand]drawing as thinking


for all that comes after [a complete e-version] :

Sunday, 16 May 2010


institution of interpretation as glue binding the Playhouse together

interacting façades

spatial +social interactions between institutions in unfolding façades
[façades as thick inhabited zones, horizontal +vertical, talking faces...]
institution of interpretation as persian rug of interactions [heterotopias]
character textures : grey-roses as the pleaser;
navy-cobbles as the hoarder;
red-distressed concrete as the intimidator;
aqua-wood grain as the coder

route of activity

reimagined communal space


playhouse at benvie road yard

toxic communal space : dumped rubbish spots, peepholes, crumbling walls, fragmented fences, dead ends....

architectural language of interpretation?

playhouse as house of forgotten desires [ivan chtcheglov]

= Playhouse

institution of interpretation on site

sub-equation for hole classification

[what we already know : lessons learnt]

Sunday, 2 May 2010

situation equation

inner workings of the institution of interpretation upon inhabiting each hole in the city...

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


from holes in the city

after john hejduk

victims [prophecy for berlin]