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Balmond's 'excesses' must be put in context


Any doubts relating to Cecil Balmond's rhetoric should not detract from the opportunities opened up by his work (AJ 27.3.03). These are beautifully expressed in the 2002 Serpentine Pavilion, which can be described, simply, as having been made possible by an 'excess' of nodes. From a structural perspective it is only natural that, for a discipline traditionally grounded in a discourse of economy, the justification of this excess is a source of conflict.

Plato understood this conflict as one between necessity (what things should be) and goodness (what we want things to be), and it is the attempt at resolving this that perhaps generates the doubts expressed by Clare Melhuish. While not explicitly presented as such, the exploration of 'excess' in structural engineering has provided the impetus for some very interesting recent projects - for example, Eric Parry's office on London's Finsbury Square, with its excess of columns, or the Stone House of Meili and Peter with its excess of walls. While initially very different, Balmond's work is a related strand of this exploration.

Anyone working in this area should be applauded. Balmond's projects are not just compelling but are easily capable of the serious contribution to the architectural discourse that your reviewer doubts. The language, however, may well take some time to catch up.

Andy Greig, Greig Ling Consulting Engineers, London EC2

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