My experience is that there is very little of a common language between artists and architects. This should not be seen as a negative statement, but rather a acknowledgement of difference and therefore the very reason why collaboration between artists and architects can, at its best, be fascinating and rewarding.
I happily find that some architects are not trying to change the world (and don't see that as being the role of architecture) and are not necessarily seeking to make the master-piece. The most interesting practices choose to deal not with the symbolic, the emblematic or the dream of a brave new world, but work with something of much more importance. Neil Gillespie of Reiach and Hall (the architects for the Stills Gallery project) has said that he is far more interested in 'the grey areas of life'. He sees his role as designing for a more enjoyable swim, a better way to shop or a healthier living environment.
So what place is there for artists within this discussion? Why should we collude with or willingly assist a much wealthier and more regulated profession? As well as the wider discussions concerning users and audience, location and context, I find it a great opportunity to assess structures of production. How do we go about doing this? What would happen if we made it green instead of blue? Why do you want to do it that way?
In collaborative projects you are not necessarily being asked to look at a different landscape, but perhaps to look at it from a different vantage point. At its best, it can be a sail into uncharted waters.
Nathan Coley is collaborating with Reiach and Hall on the refurbishment of the Stills Gallery, Edinburgh