I work with artists to discover what architecture is not. Artists move comfortably in the world of ideas; they are interested in finding something out; they are concerned with research, private research. Their work is therefore inevitably intimate, personal, acutely observed, incisive; they work with materials and ideas directly; they have not lost contact with making. Artists are specialists.
Architecture on the other hand has been hijacked by 'professionals' who think they can procure buildings more efficiently or more economically than an architect. Architecture is complicated by concerns of professionalism, pragmatism, bureaucracy, legislation and litigation. Ideas and making are reserved for the design magazines or not the real world of building. Architects are generalists.
Collaboration with those who see more clearly addresses the imbalance within the design process. In my experience with artists over a number of years, two collaborations have been made possible by grants from the rsa Art for Architecture Award Scheme: one with Adam Barker-Mill (now in progress) and one with Nathan Coley, on the refurbishment of the Stills Gallery, Edinburgh.
Nathan is an incisive, gregarious artist whose work is heavy with irony and wit. He easily merged with the design team and became another significant voice around the table - different, cultured and oblique. How did his comments impact on the project? Who knows? The building emerged differently because he was there but any attribution of authorship is meaningless.
Neil Gillespie is with Reiach and Hall, Edinburgh