Sunday, 4 December 2011

A 'Fun'tastic New Blog: Anammanzo: 'the Place of Dreams'

I was recently asked, as part of my course, to write an essay about a subject that interests me architecturally. For a long time now, I have known what I'm interested in, however expressing this in an academic way and finding some research written on it seems to be near impossible. My key search words have been 'fun and architecture, architecture and humor, the use of irony in architecture, playful architecture.' What may have been better to Google was perhaps 'fun : the taboo of architecture', as I have found, through countless tutorials, as it does certainly seem to have a taboo around it. It seems that today, particularly following the recession, architects feel like they are not allowed to be seen having fun while working, and that having fun while working in some way decreases the validity of your work, as you are seen to be 'not taking the task at hand seriously.' In addition to this, it seems that the same is true when actually proposing a project with fun connotations - in making the scheme playful/fun, your work only seems to be fit for use by children. Why is this?

A a subject, this has bugged me for a while. I thought I was the only one, until stumbling randomly on  anammanzo's blog last week. Ana's blog entitled 'the place of dreams' draws on the many thoughts we as architects have when designing projects, and notably the idea of fun in architecture. In her two essays 'fun architecture' and 'the fun theory' Ana addresses this taboo of fun and explains what I have been trying to explain for years to countless people when they so casually ask me ' what type of architecture are you in to?'. 'Fun architecture' is not the 'high tech/environmetal' answer they were expecting. Ana gives some good suggestions as to books to read on the subject too, (many of which have been sat on my Amazon wishlist for a while now!) bashing that intellectual cliche that fun architecture has no solid intellectual grounding. I for one will continue to follow Ana - I salute you Ana for putting into words what I couldn't.

fun architecture

the fun theory....challanging human behavior

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Grayson Perry - The Tombstone of the Unknown Craftsman, British Museum

Having spent the last two months trying to convince my fellow classmates, that I was not mad - after presenting a giant18m tall pink teddy bear as my first project (see other blog) -  the Grayson Perry exhibition - 'Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman' presented a welcome opportunity to move down the table and pass the Mad Hatter back his hat. Essentially a selection of various crafted works selected by the artist from the British Museum archives, juxtaposed with the artists own work (which he has created using similar ancient craft techniques and materials), the exhibition is a celebration and personal exploration of all in which the artist finds inspiration  In-essentially the exhibition is a open book of the artists own mind, - a world largely ruled still by his own childhood ideas, focusing around Alan Measles - a 50 year old teddy bear, presented by the artist as a  'god' and 'fierce dictator'.

Perry's Teddy: Alan Measles

As an exhibition overall, I found it highly enjoyable. I particularly admired the shear courage the artist had in using his own childhood ideas as a concept, and the level of detail in the narrative he adopted in carrying it through all of his work. To me, the use of a teddy bear - the eternal symbol of childhood- was a particularly clever choice in creating an emotional link of the exhibition with his audience. Childhood represents different things for different people: happiness, sadness, loneliness, and thus produced an instant reaction in those viewing his work - although one (that I have found in my own work, which often deals with 'fun' concepts) had sadly worn a little thin by the end of the exhibition.

Reading from the British Museum website, the synopsis for the show stated that the exhibition aimed to 'inspire people to take their inner life more seriously', and in doing so, take our 'real life' less seriously - an idea I strive to promote in my own work and we could all learn from I think. The artist encourages us to take some time to self reflect, play, imagine, and think about the things in life that are really important to us - from love right through to sexual fantasy, by highlighting the obscenity of 'real life' and encasing it in his work. He uses humour and sacasam throughout the exhibition, to flag up what are real concerns for him and his audience - the loss of religion, the oversexualisation of society, and commercialization of the world - in a way that, unlike other artists, feels to me extremely humble and accessible. With Perry, it feels like there are no complicated hidden meanings - everything is exposed to view.

As an exhibition of artwork, this show enabled Perry to truly prove his skill as an artist - showing his considerable talent for adopting new techniques and carrying them out in his work to an incredibly high standard. However, although aware of Grayson's background as a potter, the exhibition could have perhaps done with a little less pottery, which seemed to dominate. His lack of inhibition in his uses of colour and decoration in his pieces, was particularly inspiring in encouraging me to be more bold in my own design work. As a creative myself, the exhibition gave me that push I needed to accept my own crazy ideas and thoughts and run with them rather than be ashamed of them - whats a piece of work without a phallic reference, a teddy or a rainbow, eh? I'm sure for countless others it will do the same.

Perry, Ill be needing that hat back please.

To see more about this exhibition

Thursday, 10 November 2011

CJ Lim: Short Stories: London in Two and a Half Dimensions

    For many years now CJ Lim has been my idol and I've never really stopped to ask myself why.  I have always been in awe of his detailed models and the incredibly complex ideas behind them, but who isn't? It was only following his lecture tonight that I really understood why. I went to the lecture as an exercise in disciplining the architecture student in me: expecting to understand little and expecting to leave with a sense of self loathing and a ' must try harder' attitude that would spur me on til Christmas. Instead I left with the complete opposite.
     The talk was based loosely around his new book 'Short Stories: London  in Two and a Half Dimensions', which acts to explain some of the narratives behind many of his 'drawings' for his London based pieces of work.  CJ  (I can call him that now cause we are now mates.......yeah he signed my book) talked about his belief in the importance of narrative in any design, how this can be represented through model form and how this can be used to define space; define architecture. Having only looked but never really understood his work, I found this very useful, and found it opened up much of his work that was previously inaccessible to me, and a world of representation techniques for me to try.
     I was particularly interested to find out that much of his inspiration came from simple childhood books that were personal to him: I generally sighting my inspiration as coming from chilldhood toys/games. He described his work as not taking architecture too seriously, and highlighted the need to have fun and design something that makes you happy - reinforcing the motos I had already set for myself. I found it particularly comforting and incredibly humbling to hear of his tales of underachieving, arguing with tutors at architecture school and still - despite having an incredible architecture career under his belt - him finding the need to impress his parents. This I realized, without me even knowing, was the reason why, he's was and still is my idol. 
CJ, your welcome around my house for Sunday lunch any day. Roast pork was it?

book review

Monday, 7 November 2011

Jason Griffiths: A Guide to the Essential Indifference of American Suburban Housing

Last week I attended a lecture given by Jason Griffiths, Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona entitled 'A Guide to the Essential Indifference of American Suburban Housing'. Generally as a student keen to explore the the more unconventional and often bizarre in architecture, the title did not immediately appeal to me, however I found myself pleasantly surprised by both the talk and Jason himself. The lecture was as much a summary with highlights of the highly detailed documentation process of hundreds of American suburban houses and their features, that Jason and his partner had undertaken over the past year, as it was a comment on the difference in taste levels and common modern day vernaculars between the USA and the UK. I found particular interesting the irony behind certain traits and features found in the suburban home, and found myself questioning whether it was the years of architecture school or the middle class British upbringing in me that had formed the my architectural aesthetic - one that was truly appalled yet strangely seduced by this vernacular. Overall, I found the talk both interesting and inspiring, suffice to say, I'm looking forward to including some white weatherboard paneling, garage windows and push out fireplaces in my next building design. Watch out CSA the Yanks have arrived. 

read the review here

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Bruno Taut's 'Down with Seriousism'

Although written nearly over a century ago, Bruno Taut's famous rant 'Down with Seriousism' still, for me, seems entirely relevant today.
Bruno Taut - Down with Seriousism - 1920
'Away with the sourpusses, the wailing Willies, the sobersides, the brow furrowers, the eternally serious, the sweet-sour ones, the forever important!
‘Important! Important!’ This damned habit of acting important! Tombstone and cemetery fa├žades in front of junk shops and old clothes stores! Smash the shell-lime Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns, demolish the pinheads! Down with the ‘respectability’ of sandstone and plate-glass, in fragments with the rubbish of marble and precious wood, to the garbage heap with all that junk!
‘Oh, our concepts: space, home, style!’ Ugh, how these concepts stink! Destroy them, put an end to them! Let nothing remain! Chase away their schools, let the professorial wigs fly, we’ll play catch with them. Blast, blast! Let the dusty, matted, gummed up world of concepts, ideologies and systems feel our cold north wind! Death to the concept-lice! Death to everything stuffy! Death to everything called title, dignity, authority! Down with everything serious!
Down with all camels that won’t go through the eye of a needle, with all worshippers of Mammon and Moloch! ‘The worshippers of force must knuckle under to force!’ We are sick of their bloodsucking - caterwauling in the early light.
In the distance shines our tomorrow. Hurray, three times hurray for our kingdom without force! Hurray for the transparent, the clear! Hurray for purity! Hurray for crystal! Hurray and hurray again for the fluid, the graceful, the angular, the sparkling, the flashing, the light - hurray for everlasting architecture!'