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Gareth Hoskins at the RIBA - nice lecture, shame about the exhibition

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Gareth Hoskins is a charming speaker, but his exhibition at the RIBA is lacking, says Christine Murray

Gareth Hoskins: People & Place
16 February 2009
Wren Room, RIBA , 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD

Gareth Hoskins 1-10 is the first exhibition and book in The Lighthouse’s new series promoting prominent Scottish architects, on show at the RIBA until 24 February. In tandem with the exhibition, Hoskins delivered a lecture on 16 February, discussing his practice’s most significant buildings over the past decade, as well as a handful of new projects.

Hoskins’ talk, entitled People & Place, linked a decade of work through his belief that architecture should ‘choreograph a journey’ – spaces to walk by, pass through, meet friends, gather incidentally, or rest. He described Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre in Inverness (2007) as having ‘a roof to gather on’, the Bridge Arts Centre (2006) in Glasgow, as ‘not a building, but a front door’, and Gathering Place (2008), the Scottish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, as a huge staircase on which you might relax or meet friends.

Softly-spoken over a meticulous slideshow, Hoskins was charming, unassuming, almost ego-less and matter-of-fact. An exception was when he paused to pooh-pooh exhibition curator Hugh Pearman’s reference to a Scottish regional aesthetic (‘I certainly don’t think for us that regionalism is appropriate’), showing the practice’s shortlisted Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw as ‘proof we can work anywhere’.

At the close of his talk, Hoskins introduced his newest projects, the most tantalising of which is a secret, ‘controversial’ job to revamp Gillespie, Kidd and Coia’s Grade-I listed St Peter’s Seminary in Cardoss with developer Urban Splash. Hoskins wouldn’t reveal the mix of retail or residential or the type of intervention, saying only that the project would be ‘moving forward soon’ and would ‘breathe new life’ into the ‘derelict’ building. The limited slides showed the seminary ensconced in a circle of low-rise towers.

Following the talk, I had a wander through the exhibition (designed by Hoskins), which features process models, plans and drawings neatly arranged on plywood plinths and classified based on their context (Rural, In Town, Edge of Town, etc.) If Hoskins talk gave a common theme to disparate works, the exhibition does not. By rationalising ten years of work into banal categories, Gareth Hoskins 1-10 does little to characterise the practice’s output.

The accompanying book suffers from the same fragmentation, employing the same categories, but covering a greater number of projects – it offers a thorough, if un-enlightening catalogue of work.

Hoskins tell is better than his show

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