Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Getting off the ground depends on discarding excess baggage

  • Comment

Runway - that place which allows aircraft to propel themselves to the corners of the earth and back. Landing strip - a sense of arrival tinged with relief. Why do we not refer to the departure strip? At night, we all know, but do not see, that this patch of land is lit like a Christmas tree.

On take-off, we feel the seat digging into our backs as we are propelled toward the clouds. There is an excitement which is pure sensation. All the miseries of the airport are forgotten and our concerns about dying shrivel into insignificance as we experience, with our bodies, the surge of power. Sex is almost as good.

Runway - as escape from one world into another. More exactly, it is an escape into a space between two places in the world. In the air, everything is the same - everybody is distanced from their known world. Some might be leaving it, others returning. But for a few hours the idea of place is suspended.

Fantasies can be indulged in, dreams dreamt and extravagant possibilities entertained. The runway is the passport to these phenomena.

Our great-grandparents were denied the freedoms of releasing themselves from the Earth's surface. They had no opportunity to defy gravity and suspend time. Their world was smaller and focused in a more defined geography. Friends in distant places were pen pals and rarely seen. Letters were used to cover distance, often relating events and the physicality of a place that might never be seen. They constructed the world in a different way, which coloured a vision of Australia, for example, with an idea of a warmer Surrey. In many ways this was beautiful. The vision could not be tested without major expense or difficulty, and there was a sense of security in that.

A dancer and choreographer has just asked me to collaborate on a new programme.

Runway was the only word they provided.

When I start a new architectural project I do not wish to know very much. Too much information gets in the way of working. In the past, I have started with a simple inky footprint on an A1 sheet of paper. The starting point is only about starting, and nothing else.

I have observed how many architects indulge in research and gather information until they cannot see what to do. I am not saying that information is not required eventually, but timing is everything. In collaboration it is even more important.

The act of creation, a word I do not like (it belongs to Genesis), is more an act of discovery. This process relies on placing oneself in a position of openness, where the moves or activities of one collaborator allow the other to be surprised and also to respond.

Slowly, the piece takes on meaning and moves subtly from the realms of a possibility to a reality that is ready to be tested.

Some collaboration can exist with no objective. This is an extremely difficult situation to arrive at - relying, as it does, on mutual respect and courage. I have a continuing collaboration with Bruce McLean, where, very often, the objective is only to work. I believe in collaboration in many ways, whether it is an art or architectural work - to me there is no distinction.

Social housing should always be seen as a collaboration between the inhabitants and the architect, whereby both parties take responsibility for discarding their preconceptions and allowing themselves to observe the results of the process.

The dance that starts with 'runway'will land somewhere interesting.

WA, from the concrete garden table - Norfolk

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.