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Their artistry casts a new light on architecture

Emily Booth
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In what seems like an endless, dark, Brexit-jammed January, it is good to be reminded that architecture is a critical part of wider culture, writes Emily Booth

Two stories in the AJ this week illuminate the meeting point of architecture and culture – and provide a bright reminder of what gets us all out of bed in the morning. 

First, renowned photographer Hélène Binet has won the Ada Louise Huxtable Prize, part of the AJ and AR’s Women in Architecture awards. Her work, entirely shot on film, has been described by Daniel Libeskind as exposing ‘architecture’s achievements, strength, pathos and fragility’.

Zaha hadid, vitra fire station,weil am rhein, germany @ courtesy ammann gallery

Zaha hadid, vitra fire station,weil am rhein, germany @ courtesy ammann gallery

So much of what we think about architecture, particularly the importance of materiality, is captured in her photographs. They remind us of the grace and beauty of buildings – and why, sometimes, it takes an artist to help us see architecture in a new light.

Second, there’s the curious case of the Archigram archive. Will Hurst’s exclusive news feature explains how culture secretary Jeremy Wright has approved the export of the 1960s avant-garde architecture group’s archive, against the recommendation of an expert committee.

Whether or not you think the archive should leave the UK (it has been sold to M+, a modern art and design museum in Hong Kong), it is heartening that its ‘outstanding significance in relation to architectural history’ has been recognised, and that it remains intact for future generations. Archigram’s revolutionary approach has been a life-infused kick-ass inspiration to many, and the haggling over which global institution will own this treasure just reinforces its cultural significance.

Architecture, by its very nature, must often address practical concerns. In any one project, at any one time, many inquiring minds might be focused on mundane but necessary points, such as: how to maximise the number of units; what elements might spook the planning department (and how to allay their concerns); and where the loos will be sited. The verve and spirit of Archigram and Binet underline the importance of an architectural cultural connection: a timely reminder of the pull and possibilities of architecture that should be shared and savoured.

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