New Facade: Toby Paterson At the CCA, 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow until 25
May I was unprepared for the quality of architectural illustration and spatial complexity currently on show at Glasgow's CCA. Toby Paterson's work is a reminder on many levels of the beauty of our craft. It is an exploration of ideas in architectural space, form, composition and light, delivered through a variety of media.
Paterson looks for depth, layering and shadow through painting and making, rather than resorting to the conventions of mainstream architectural representation.
'Hardcore' Modernist forms and iconic buildings, as well as more ordinary ones, are either referred to or painted directly on to the gallery walls. So, rather than illustrate his subjects through traditional architectural codes, the artist presents what he sees as their primary constituents: light, shadow and compositional complexity. It is a wakeup call for architects who are genuinely interested in the meaning of their subject.
The range of reference and source material informing the show is a skill in itself.
Even though eclectic, there is a strong continuity that links the Modernist tradition from its origins to its most skilled local protagonist (Gillespie Kidd & Coia), and a secondary layer of reference through colour theory. You will see connections from Le Corbusier through to Bolles-Wilson. You will see Pasmore's gift to Stirling Wilford.
You may even detect Steven Holl. If you really try, you will see a slightly provocative revision of Le Corbusier's colour palette through Paterson's reassessment of line, shadow, toning and notation in 'decorating' CCA's Gallery Three.
Paterson takes the existing gallery spaces, highlights their varied character and discovers their potential. The wall screen as you enter the CCA is part-screen, part-furniture, maybe even a big model for a building. It closes down a large, neutral entrance area and suggests an ambiguous scale. It is a threshold; an architectural marker.
Then you meet a dark, sober, low space; a bridge between light and light, full of atmosphere, and treated much like a traditional gallery. Gillespie Kidd & Coia is given pride of place here before you encounter the third space - previously unremarkable - which is totally animated and transformed by colour, paintings and small installations. From every direction you are given a visual treat.
Paintings of stairs and ramps stand out because of the way the subjects are removed from their real context and given a new one on the gallery walls. Beautifully observed in perspective and axonometric, they are studied as shadow makers - sculptural forms, not prosaic instruments.
This is an arresting space through Patterson's intervention, a serene example of how space can be subdivided and animated by form, colour and architectural illustration. It works as interior architecture should: that is, it means something. And Paterson knows where to start and where to stop. The space is not crowded. It is poised beautifully.
My partner in McKeown Alexander PJMP Architects, Ian Alexander, points out that Paterson sees the ways in which very ordinary architecture can be influenced by Modernist work. This is the artist celebrating the often overlooked, giving it its rightful status through the clarity of his vision, and reminding us of the enduring strength of basic architectural form.
This exhibition has reminded me of our subject in a way that no amount of architectural drawing has of late. It is a carefully researched and curated show, which architects must visit, if only to remind themselves of the potential joy our subject can provide and what we were trained to see and do. The obvious references to Le Corbusier and Gillespie Kidd & Coia are necessary, but the subtler ones are more interesting - and perhaps an indication of what Paterson will do next.
Henry McKeown is an architect in Glasgow.
The CCA has just unveiled a permanent installation by Paterson, Sunlit New Facade, and launched a book on his work (tel 0141 332 7521)