Working within the peculiarity of London
More from: Venice preview: Introduction
We’ve approached our joint installation as a means to communicate something about London and how we work in London to the Venice Biennale audience. Unlike many of the other exhibitions in the Corderie, this isn’t a team with just one architect, but three practices which all work in London.
We’ve tried to shift the focus from an auto-biographical approach to one about the peculiarities of public space in London and how we all apply this understanding of the city to how we make architecture in it.
Despite being the theme of the Biennale, Common Ground is actually one way of describing our approach to making buildings. Common ground in London’s public spaces is something that has been fought for as the city evolved over the centuries.
We make shared territories in a literal sense in that each of our three practices regularly collaborate with artists and designers, but also in that we make spaces in our city for public use and enjoyment. The concept behind our joint installation, Inhabitable Models, stemmed from asking the question of how we could bring a little bit of London, and this way of working in London, to Venice. How could we get across this idea of London as a city lacking in traditional public space, but operating in a highly theatrical fashion, reclaiming unofficial public spaces as areas in which to play or protest?
We also wanted to tell the story of our collaborative approach to architecture as a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at theatricality and public space in London.
So, our inhabitable models are inhabited by the visiting public (standing in for Londoners), but also by collaborations with artists such as Jake Tilson, recorded discussions with mentors like Dalibor Vesely, and audio-visual representations of the differing contexts of London in which our buildings live, represented in the installation by a film made by Sue Barr and David Heathcote.
We wanted to present our work at the Young Vic Theatre, so what better way to do this than by bringing the theatre itself to Venice? Using seven panels temporarily removed from the building’s facade, including the original artwork by Clem Crosby, we have formed a 1:1 representation of the theatre in an exhibition context. This is the first time an existing building has been partially deconstructed to be displayed during the Biennale.
Behind this facade, we present a cross-section of artists who inspire our work, from the provisional nature of contemporary theatre companies such as Punchdrunk and Shunt, the working methods of artists such as Zoe Leonard’s tracing of the layered, quirky beauty of overlooked urban spaces, to Dan Graham’s observations on New Jersey.
In the midst of this, artist Jake Tilson has collected and assembled ephemera and the junk of the everyday reality of The Cut, the home of the Young Vic Theatre, to illustrate how the texture of urban life can be appropriated into a meaningful and vibrant architecture.
Graham Haworth and Steve Tompkins
We are showing three projects designed for Victoria Street in Westminster: Kingsgate House, Westminster Cathedral Piazza, and an urban block that comprises a new public library and affordable housing. The relationship between architecture, sculpture and landscape is investigated in these large urban projects.
The south facade screen of the library is constructed inside the corderie of the arsenale at a scale of 1:3. This screen is designed as a brise soleil and trellis for artworks.
Timorous Beasties have created a 1:3 scale stone pier that sits in the screen facade, and is ornamented with their pattern, ‘Birdbranch’.
A large table houses models, drawings, artefacts and art works at various scales, as well as two short films including interviews with Joseph Rykwert and Dalibor Vesely, accompanied by a visual essay including photographs of Westminster by David Grandorge. Our collaborations with artists Rut Blees Luxemburg, Hilary Koob-Sassen and Joel Tomlin are presented as examples of the Common Ground of the urban imagination.
Eric Parry Architects
We explore the radical potential of the collaboration between artist and architect in two recent projects in the City of Westminster, London.
At St James’s Gateway on Piccadilly, we are collaborating with sculptor Richard Deacon, who has created a cornice integrated into the new facade. Formed of 39 individual coloured ceramic elements, the 25m artwork echoes the exuberance and activity of nearby Piccadilly Circus and is represented at the Biennale with two full-scale sections and a model of part of the building elevation at a scale of 1:3.
We also present our work at St Martin-in-the Fields, one of the most complex developments of its kind undertaken in London in many years, and in particular our collaboration with the artist Shirazeh Houshiary on the remarkable new east window, a central element of the practice’s refurbishment of the historic church and one which creates a strong visual presence both inside and outside.