For well over ten years I’ve been working with architectural practices heavily involved in the delivery of public buildings. Equally, I’ve worked alongside visual artists working on community projects. Although I’ve witnessed a few collaborations between the professions, I do wonder why there hasn’t been more importance placed on developing such partnerships, particularly in designing schools and hospitals. One obvious answer is the need to reduce building costs. Limiting or completely removing arts budgets is common. This I guess is an economic answer but how different is art to architecture when they serve the same purpose in the public realm? Some of you may have heard me discuss this at length but I invited my guest blogger Livingstone Mukasa, Founder and CEO of Archibility, an online portal for the sourcing and outsourcing of architectural and design services, to provide an additional perspective on the importance of integrating art within the built environment.
Integrating art within the built environment.
Mankind’s instinctual desire to decorate habitants has been with us for as long as the need to have shelter. This creative process has, from time immemorial, given meaning to built spaces. Architecture, sculpture, and painting once belonged together. Indeed, they were admirably intertwined at various points in history—in the ancient cultures of East and West, and in the European Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. It is only during relatively recent times in human civilization that the separation of art and architecture has taken place.
When the architectural discipline began to align itself with the fields of science and technology, determined by functionality and rationalism, poetic, spiritual and humanising qualities were discarded as unnecessary. The modernist movement generally rejected everything that did not meet the demands of structural necessity or material functionalism. The idea that the building itself, through its shapes, relationship between solids and voids, became the art work, necessitating the elimination of any artistic expression applied to or incorporated into the building.
This lack of art in architecture contributed to the visual poverty and impersonality experienced in most 20th century cities around the world. The modernist trend helped create visual deficiencies of the environment in which we live. Particularly regrettable was the uninspiring appearances of school buildings, a misfortune still present today. Interest in art should be encouraged at an early age and a visually stimulating environment is of crucial importance in a place that serves the early development of personality and value systems.
Another contributor to the demise was economics. Buildings became real estate that often trades hands for money, as are paintings and sculptures. The rules of standardization began to apply, leaving little room for expressionism. Today, it is rare to find architecture, art, and sculpture united in any but the most tentative way.
The inability of mainstream modernist architecture to establish a more humanised environment gave rise to the postmodern movement. The eclecticism of this movement attempted to counter the alienating abstractness of modernist architecture — among others — by means of reintegrating imagery, ornament, colour and various visual art and craft practices into the architectural design.
An Awakening Emerges
But what started out as a powerful critique of the shortcomings of Modernism, quickly lapsed to the level of a fashionable style, more concerned with the production of a striking image that would enhance the building’s commercial value, than with the creation of artistic beauty and the celebration of poetic, subliminal qualities. These qualities — universally admired in the most magnificent structures of the past — have clearly become marginal pursuits in mainstream architectural production of the present.
Today, many urban environments are perceived to be alienating and even hostile, while most public buildings project an authoritative, inaccessible, or at times dehumanising image. Contemporary architecture benefits immensely from artistic content. The use of art helps create a humanising, scale-giving and psychologically benevolent factor. Also, the vast majority of people never see original paintings and sculpture in an art galleries or museums. This provides substantial reason to equip public buildings with art.
Given the architectural discipline’s established alignment with the `hard’ rather than the `soft’ sciences, and the absence of serious research and verifiable data about the effects of art on the users of buildings, the necessity of art is often given little consideration among clients, local authorities and even architects. The separation of art and architecture in mainstream architectural practice and training is moreover conspicuously out of touch with the recent shift towards more interdisciplinary teaching and research in most other academic fields. Art is no longer taught and not generally presumed to be an integral part of architecture — neither among architects, nor among the general public. Most often architects blame either the cost factor for the absence of art in their buildings, or the negative attitude of an unsympathetic client. Artistic adornment is perceived to be expensive and inessential.
A wide range of artistic embellishment, however, cannot only be achieved at very low cost, but its execution can also easily be performed by virtually untrained craftsmen. Costs for such projects are thus hardly excessive; they could be motivated for on the basis of job creation and skill’s development and built into the project budget for community engagement and training.
The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Centre
One outstanding example of this integration is The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Because hospitals are often accessed only during times of crisis, the design of the building and the integration of artworks specially created for the Bloomberg Children’s Center is integral to the mission of the institution, which seeks to bring comfort and healing to both the pediatric patient and their loved ones. The Bloomberg Children’s Center serve as a blueprint for other facilities interested in adopting a similar approach. Working together, the team from Johns Hopkins, the architecture firm of Perkins + Will, landscape architects from Olin, along with consulting architect Allen Kolkowitz, and art curator Nancy Rosen, worked together with over 70 artists to create a state-of-the-art medical facility and featuring more than 500 custom works of art. The project was a tremendous opportunity for this diverse professional to work collectively using their broad vocabulary to create something unique. The architects had to learn to allow the artists a certain freedom and integrity to express their art in the architectural space. And the artists had to learn how to incorporate elements into the architectural core that integrate rather than explode out. Working together, they all became parts of a complex chorus.
The Ever-Changing Language of the Colour Alphabet
The collaboration is clearly visible, even miles away. Covering almost the entire exterior of the building in a seamless bond is a massive and intricate multi-colored work of art by Spencer Finch. Each panel of the shadowbox-like work is made out of two layers of glass through which shines one of Finch’s color alphabet—a carefully distilled palette of 26 shades—with blue as the dominant color—inspired by Claude Monet’s Impressionist landscape paintings and Finch’s visits to Monet’s studio outside Paris. The result is a shimmering exterior that captures the light of the sky, allowing the building to change in sync with the environment, establishing it as a natural and inviting presence. While the glass and color accentuate the curves and dimples of the building, its transparency beckons the community.
The art and design of the Bloomberg Children’s Center also has practical functions. Spencer Finch’s palette for the building exterior is composed primarily of a range of blue tones. The presence of the colour blue is used throughout the interiors—in all of the elevator lobbies, along the patient floors, even on the walkway of the bridge that leads into the building, immediately letting visitors know that they are in the children’s section of the hospital or on a path towards it. There is a unique work of art in every one of the twelve elevator lobbies, each inspired by a different book. This idea of linking reading and healing continues throughout the building’s reception and waiting areas and along its main circulation routes. As patients and visitors navigate through the building, they will discover unique works of art that become memorable landmarks that help with way finding. Setting the Stage with Playful Sculptures The airy bi-level lobby and its four-story atrium reinforce the feeling of accessibility and openness that permeates the building. When considering how artworks could enliven these entry spaces, curator Rosen proposed reaching out to set designers. In the natural course of their activities, these magicians of the stage are experts at dealing with active, populated spaces, and are thoroughly accustomed to working collaboratively. Based on a series of enchanting concept sketches, stage and set designer Robert Israel was brought on board. Rather than just filling the space, Israel’s work transforms the area to continue the sense of delight sparked by the shimmering glass of the building’s exterior. Swimming above the broad stairway that connects the ground floor and the main level lobbies is a family of giant puffer fish. And suspended beyond the main level information desk is a flying cow with a nine-foot wingspan, heading towards a ring of the 28 phases of the moon. Just outside, a very colorful huge rhinoceros, with a baby rhino on its back, both built out of block-like cubes, stands at over 20 feet high at the entrance to the Bloomberg Children’s Center’s Emergency Department. The craggy, uneven pavement at its feet is evidence of its weighty stature and rootedness in the community. Israel did not get to see the final building before he designed the sculptures. He worked with architecture plans and models and tried to figure it out.
Every form of Architecture ought to be an Art
In many parts of the world, where the encouragement of more accessibility to art and the promotion of cultural self-expression have high priority, individuals from local communities are given the opportunity of getting involved and collaborating with the architect on the artistic embellishment of the new building in their midst. This is a scheme easily adapted. Themes for art works — be they murals, mosaics, relief works, or sculptures — can be generated in community meetings. Local narratives can provide specificity to broader and more general themes and issues, allowing the artwork to become a focal point of shared memories or aspirations. People thus become active producers of the building rather than passive consumers and the process of engagement may contribute to public responsibility, ownership, and the prevention of vandalism. Artistic decoration is also the easiest way of involving the future users of the building — who might be children — hands-on in shaping their own built environment. Art can describe a building’s function; it can imbue a space with a spiritual quality; it can visually enlarge a space by creating an illusion; it can confer status; it can demonstrate wealth; it can convert a neutral space into one suited for a particular ritual; it can ascertain claims about a building’s owner or users; it can establish links between cultures or attempt to recover values of the past; in short: art plays a vital role in shaping a building’s identity.
Architecture is not the making of an exquisite object for the select few, but has a much broader function in society. Human beings have a fundamental need to experience their existence as meaningful. In this context the ability to identify with one’s environment — be it natural or built environment — provides a sense of belonging. Architecture often falls short of providing this sense of belonging, of truly capturing the genius loci. Art can play an important role in this regard, because it is more accessible and can be experienced on a more immediate, emotional level, thus allowing people to relate to a building through art. Art must once again be understood to be an integral part of architecture, as it always has been until fairly recently. Only when architectural students are taught that art is part of architecture just as plumbing or wall finishes or landscaping, will budgets be established accordingly and architects will not be forced to `hide’ costs for murals under the codes for paint or landscaping. The general public, from which clients emerge, can hardly be expected to revise their established understanding of architecture if professional architects themselves do not understand the integral unity of art and architecture. The challenge lies with the educational institutions to revise their curricula and reappraise the role of architecture and the role of the architect in society.
LeCorbusier, the famed modernist architect who represented a movement to integrate art and architecture once said: “You employ stone, wood, and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces: that is construction. Ingenuity is at work. But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good. I am happy and I say: ‘This is beautiful.’ That is Architecture. Art enters in…”
All architecture has the potential to reach that state. And any architect, planner, or designer working in collaboration with the owners or the public, can do what Corbu is describing.
My thanks to Livingstone for providing this entry. For further information on Archability please visit http://www.archability.com/
There’s nothing better than attending an art fair to focus the mind, encourage you back into the studio and create artwork. I was privileged to attend the opening of the Other Art Fair at Ambika P3 in London last night. I was impressed by the variety of work on show. An array of fine art, photography, sculpture and even tattooing!
The first Other Art Fair at the Bargehouse in November 2011 showcased the work of 80 of the UK’s best artists and attracted 4,300 visitors over three days. In May 2012, The Other Art Fair moved to Ambika P3 in Marylebone with the hope of making the experience of the inaugural fair even better. Staged in May and November 2012, both events saw a continuation of art sales and opportunities for exhibitors. Ambika P3 I believe is the setting for the show in October this year.
It was good to see familiar faces including Debut Contemporary artists Elizabeth James, Toni Gallagher and Damilola Odusote exhibit and I congratulate them. Their work was outstanding as per usual but I was equally impressed with the art of others including Eva Wilkinson. Eva explores the theme of domesticity and confinement through using repetitive, monotonous and laborious processes such has hand-sewing to create sculptures which are simultaneously dark and humorous. She uses recycled and household objects to create the structures very quickly whilst placing more emphasis on the surfaces which mostly or fully hide the original sculpture altogether. She avoids using colour in her work, preferring to focus on texture.
Rachel Ann Stevenson provided very intriguing work, combining taxidermy and fine art sculpture to produce some very arresting pieces. I particularly liked “Loveless Bird’ which seemed to represent opposing character traits of a woman who appears strong, stern and independent but secretly vulnerable and exposed like the small mouse incased in the exhibit.
Rachel’s work represents, as she states “… the delicate smoke and mirrors between the conscious and the unconscious mind; distorting the fabricated glare of social order for a vague realism where we allow ourselves to be absorbed into the familiar comfort beyond the gloaming; inviting peace through the jolting madness of a lucid mind, where the dreamer can unveil their fears, dreams and desires; the past and present mixed as one, we roam free unbound by the isolation of society or actuality; within our dreams we confess the truth to ourselves. “
Also exhibiting was award-winning artist Maria Mari Murga. A graduate of Barcelona School of Arts and Design, Maria pursued her studies in Florence, Italy where she specialized in the Renaissance Old Masters painting techniques at the Angel Academy of Art. I liked seeing a replica of her “Men at your feet” limited edition sculpture that cleverly uses her charcoal drawings of male nudes to coat a single stiletto.
The show runs from 11am to 7pm today and tomorrow and 11 to 6pm Sunday. I thoroughly recommend this art fair if you’re in and around London this weekend.If not, I hope you have a great weekend whatever you do and wherever you are!
For details please visit http://www.theotherartfair.com
Hi everyone. I hope you’re all well. This last year has been a very telling one regarding how genuine, supportive and professional some people really are. I guess like everyone else I have to experience things that surprise, annoy and frustrate. Life does present a variety of situations that not only test our character and resolve, but make us determined to be happy and succeed in life. The economic climate has lead to a tough period for most. Directly and indirectly it seems to strain the dynamics and priorities of society. The ability and opportunity of moving forward is massively improved by the key relationships we form personally and professionally. I recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine of twenty years. He kindly emailed me something he read that sums up our views. I thought to share it as truer words were never spoken. This is quoted from a third party so I will attempt to find the correct source to give credit were it’s deserved!
‘ The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve. Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people. As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you.
Consider this: Never receive counsel from unproductive people. Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the solution, because those who never succeed themselves are always first to tell you how. Not everyone has a right to speak into your life. You are certain to get the worst of the bargain when you exchange ideas with the wrong person. Don’t follow anyone who’s not going anywhere.
With some people you spend an evening: with others you invest it. Be careful where you stop to inquire for directions along the road of life. Wise is the person who fortifies his life with the right friendships. If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl. But, if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights. “A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.” The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those with whom you closely associate – for the good and the bad. Note: Be not mistaken. This is applicable to family as well as friends. Yes…do love, appreciate and be thankful for your family, for they will always be your family no matter what. Just know that they are human first and though they are family to you, they may be a friend to someone else and will fit somewhere in the criteria above.”
“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”…………………..Colin Powell
Ok, this is a blog primarily about the arts but art exists and often reflects the politics that surrounds us! Politicians come and go and it’s not the first time a British Prime Minister has died. However, few undoubtedly make as much of an impact in politics as Baroness Margaret Thatcher who passed away from a stroke last week.
This is important to highlight for two reasons. Firstly, I have been supporting the Stroke Association and trying to raise public awareness of the condition since I discovered that one in three people are likely to suffer one in their lifetime. 150,000 will have a stroke each year. One third will die, a third will be left with a life changing disability and a percentage will make varying levels of recovery . Statistically stroke kills more women than breast cancer and remains the major cause of adult disability in the UK. For further information on Stroke please visit http://www.stroke.org.uk/ in the UK and http://www.strokeassociation.org/ in the US or the World Stroke Association
The second reason I decided to say something about the former PM is the fact I was born and grow up in Thatcher’s Britain. There will always be a divided view regarding her legacy and whether she was ‘good’ for Britain. The recent celebrations and partying on the streets of Brixton, Bristol and Glasgow would suggest she won’t be missed! With a Grenadian background, I was keen to read the coverage of her death from a Commonwealth perspective, particularly remembering her position on the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
The following article has been taken from Caribbean Intelligence.com
It was fun catching up with a few friends and fellow artists last night to start the weekend. Part of the conversation was about financing your art career especially in this economic climate. It reminded me that, over a year and a half after the disappointment of cancelling a London show, I have yet to hear from former gallery owner and artist Yara Caroline Tshallener. You may recall from a previous blog post, Yara received payment from several artists for exhibition space during 2011. Unfortunately they did not get the chance to exhibit because the gallery was closed under questionable circumstances. Furthermore, artists have yet to receive compensation from Yara who remains undercover. I doubt whether we will see Yara again but if you do be on your guard!!
You may have seen my video entitled ‘The Conversation” featuring the talented singer songwriter Lifford David Shillingford. Lifford is one of the UK’s most talented singer songwriters and I’m excited to see him on the verge of releasing a new EP and album later this year. ‘Sinking Swimming’ is the first release from Lifford’s down tempo solo project called Blue Dye – Soul Sessions.
His first release ,aged just 17, was a collaboration with MC Mushtaq on a track called ‘Take You Home’ which fuelled his new passion leading him to become the front man in a group called Public Demand. Public Demand was signed to ZTT through a development deal. During a writing trip in America the group penned a song that captured the interest of Trevor Horn who duly took the track into the studio. ‘Invisible’ was critically acclaimed as a breakthrough single and considered brave, mature and ahead of its time.
Lifford’s success continued with his collaboration with the Artful Dodger, most notably on the track ‘Please don’t turn me on!” He recently took time out of his busy schedule to have a chat about life and his chosen art form.
DEN: Congratulations on your track and forthcoming album. Tell me about your promotional schedule for the coming months?
LS: Thank you David, we have a busy few months in store with the release of an EP in the summer and an album later on in the year. My priority this year is to get some Soul music out for people to get into. Plans are taking place for a promotional tour in the summer to work along side the release of the EP with a launch party in July. Dates and times will be confirmed very soon. We’re just testing the water with this material to see how it’s received.
DEN: You gained success as the front man for Public Demand but you’re synonymous with the Artful Dodger and the tune “ Please Don’t Turn me on.’ What impact has it had on your career to date and has it been easy to follow on with equally successful songs?
LS: Yes Public Demand was a great time for me as was the Artful Dodger song. It gave me huge exposure and a great platform to work from which is still working for me today. It’s always hard to follow a massive tune with something equally as good. The group Artful Dodger was of its time and was the most successful Garage act with a platinum selling album. I’m happy with my writing now and have some gems to drop this year that I’m really looking forward to.
DEN: It’s been a few years now but are you in touch with the Artful D?
LS: Yes I’m touch with them all; they’re all doing different things but everyone’s well.
DEN: You’re a talented singer and songwriter. For me, your work reflects a truly sincere expression of feelings and emotions. Where do you gain your inspiration to produce material?
LS: Thanks David, I write about my life and the people around me, conversations I have and thoughts I process. I try to be as honest as possible about music and words. I find this so much easier than trying to create something I can’t relate to. I have to create honest music.
DEN: You’re open to discuss your experiences in dealing with depression. Would you mind talking about this and some of the charities you’re working with to help raise awareness of depression and mental illnesses?
LS: I’ve been suffering from depression since I was a child and its something that I’ve finally learned to deal with over the last few years. It’s a part of my life, sometimes more prominent than others. Depression has taken me to some dark places, questioning my self worth and my existence as seen on my blog but it has also helped to make me stronger, realizing and appreciating all that is good about my life too. I make a conscious effort to count my blessings and be around people who I feel good around. I have to keep an eye out for my triggers, the things which could make me take a fall or throw me off track but generally I’m managing it. Time to change have posted my blog up and have been really supportive as have been mental health charity ‘Mind.’ I’m also doing some speaking for some non-profit organisations for the youth, singing and sharing my experiences with mental health.
DEN: What have been the biggest obstacles if any in your career as an artist?
LS: The biggest obstacles for me as an artist would be funding without a doubt. Just getting someone to inject some cash into my projects is a lot harder than it was when I first started in this game.
DEN: You’ve collaborated with a number of recognised artists including Chaka Khan, Jocelyn Brown, Bluey (Incognito) Charlene Anderson and Omar. Are there any artists in particular who inspire you?
LS: I’m inspired by Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Nina Simone, Miguel, Antony Hamilton. Anyone who gives their all on and off stage.
DEN: Who ideally would you like to collaborate with?
LS: I’d love to work with Miguel, Antony Hamilton, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Al green, Marvin Gaye, Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley… anyone I could learn from .. Ooo could go on for days ..
I wish Lifford the greatest success and good fortune!
I often take comfort and motivation from creative professionals I know. Few are more creative or professional as Kerys Nathan who has featured in previous blog entries.
Kerys is a writer, director, photographer, performance coach & motivational speaker. She is a constantly evolving artist, morphing through different artistic disciplines. Her photographic and design work is very arresting, articulating expression and capturing art in a bright, colourful and refreshing way. Her resume includes music video, logo design, album design as well as visual layouts, brochure and poster design.
The desire to visually stimulate, inspire and challenge is at the centre of all her photographic and design work. Passionate about imagery and the response it can provoke, she approaches every project with a focus that allows this to happen for both her and her clients. Whilst creating and designing projects for her own business she is establishing a client list that includes recording artists, performers, fashion labels, schools and corporate clients.
There are many from corporate companies to freelance artists who could benefit from her services. For further information on her photography and design services please visit