The Architecture Within Art Museums Cultural Studies Essay

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This chapter discusses views from architects and artists regarding individual considerations towards the collaborative approach of art museum design and layout, whilst exploring the spatial benefits of integrating beliefs within them.

When a person moves through a building, the form is gradually understood, however, buildings are able to change character in varied light and weather conditions, which impact on silhouette, shape, depth and experience. Natural light is a key element in particular that can affect an individual and their experience of place emotionally and physically. If they want a space to evoke a certain effect on an individual they have to execute their idea well, as every person sees the world from a subjective perspective.

The renaissance saw creators applying artistic vision combined with an architectural spatial awareness. These early explorations provoked collaborations between both disciplines. During modern times, participation between architectural and artistic disciplines was lost and the machine took over from artistic intervention. Simultaneously, architecture repelled against artistic vision and artistic influence became redundant.

Artistic vision started to reappear with the arrival of collaborations, influenced by public art schemes, which highlighted the lack of artistic elements within architecture. The underlying connections between disciplines rejoined art and architecture through collaborative opportunities. Despite these connections, the roles of the artist and architect within collaboration were recognised as being relatively unlike.

Architects and artists began to see the collaborative method as a device that could benefit the design outcome, ultimately creating a better spatial experience for the public.

During collaboration the architect's leadership role regarding design decisions is exchanged for an equal partnership with the artist. The reason why architects like Will Alsop and artists Thomas Demand for example, undertake many collaborative projects appears to be based on a natural enjoyment of working with other disciplines.

The Ikon Gallery, 1994-1997 marked a turning point in the way artists worked with architects on public buildings in the UK. Architect Axel Burrough, from Levitt Bernstein Associates, states that the main medium used during his collaboration with artist Tania Kovats was discussion. Kovats' involvement within The Ikon Gallery was the first UK based collaboration where an artist became directly involved with contributing architectural ideas and spatial use within the design process. The collaborative brief for the gallery was set out to creatively influence the design and feel of the building and to ensure spaces were suited to the needs of contemporary artists. Throughout the collaboration Kovats became engaged in the process of what she called de-designing. This process involved focusing on ideas rather than the design. The idea of inviting an artist to become part of the design team to take things away rather than add them was seen as a bold statement at the time.

Will Alsop felt that he existed in a time where the boundary between art and architecture had been dissolved and this environment exposed him to the idea of the cross disciplinary approach. Today Alsop believes that there are no boundaries and that collaboration itself has become more significant than the spatial outcome. Alsop thinks the fundamental aim of cross disciplinary work is dependent on a number of issues concerning mutual respect between artists and architect and the instinctive attraction to the potentials of the results. According to Alsop the first point of collaboration between the architect and artist is with their own history. Alsop believes that architecture has created its own code of behaviour, meaning that the personal experience of the architect is denied. Alsop does not believe in promoting collaboration itself. In his opinion promotion is a device that encourages the arrangers to act as sponges, meaning they absorb money from the project for something that is not beneficial to the collaboration itself. Alsop argues that other arts such as painting, sculpture and music do not suffer from rigorous public debate at the point of creation, unlike architecture which seems more accessible to public debate and analysis. However, architecture affects the public more directly than painting or sculpture because this type of art can be avoided as it is usually concealed within a gallery, which supports Alsop's argument.

It is interesting to note that he considers himself as an architect who works with the same openness as an artist, believing that the function of the building should not be seen as a constraint. In his opinion architects must be allowed to develop and test concepts beyond the limitations imposed by public debate. Interestingly, Alsop does not feel the need to collaborate. However, he is able to challenge his own attitude through collaboration, in the belief that the process benefits the space and architecture thought.

Accessibility within galleries

Both disabled people and architects are constrained by 'accessibility' issues. Architects may be accused of not taking people's needs into account, or not understanding the experiences of disabled people. Disabled people, on the other hand, find themselves being defined by their disability, rather than as ordinary people attempting to lead ordinary lives. A great interest from modern museums and galleries has been generated in Architecture-InsideOut. This is an Arts Council funded project bringing architects together with disabled and deaf artists, to explore modern ways of designing buildings and spaces improving the built environment:

We hope that by supporting partnering between architects, associated agencies and disabled artists, we will begin to find alternative, creative and exciting ways to think about accessibility, inclusion and the built environment, beyond these old assumptions. (AIO, 2010)

It is stated on their website that galleries and museums are 'often looking for innovative and creative ways of engaging with disability.'

By organising events involving disabled and deaf artists responding to museum spaces and its diverse participants, the collaborations have helped educators and curators from this sector 'engage more fully with their audiences.' The artists are currently in talks with DavidChipperfield Architects for possible collaboration on the Turner contemporary gallery in Margate and also the Towner gallery in Eastbourne by Rick Mather Associates.

The integration of architectural and artistic installations within a gallery space

In the 1970's many artists moved out of art galleries to create public art movement. Ironically, this was a time when architects began to make their way into museums with drawings, models and specially commissioned works designed for these institutional contexts. Mainstream art museums established architectural content as part of their programs and the production of architectural installations began in earnest.

An increasing number of artistic or sculptural installations are being created by architects rather than artists, as they believe that this type of design allows freedom from the obligations of function, shelter and permanence associated with architectural design. Some architects believe that this mode of experimentation allows altered perceptions and understandings of particular places and spaces. Other architects use installations to collaborate with the public in new ways, serving as a form of spatial and social research for design. For most architects, installations are a medium for experimentation with materials, situations and processes, advancing the technological and aesthetic possibilities of their discipline.

Alsop believes in the idea that crossing over boundaries within the architectural process artistically enhances the spatial result. His thought is accentuated through explorations created by sculptor Sir Anthony Caro. Caro discovered interesting spatial links between architecture and sculpture. His three dimensional installations explored how sculpture could assist architecture. The spatial investigation enabled Caro to demonstrate a communication of thought between architectural devices and sculptural explorations.

Until Caro's investigation between architecture and sculpture, involving physical participation, the experience of his sculpture was based on visual experience.

The architectural discipline, in contrast to this, deals with design principles which ultimately enclose space for users to experience.

Caro wanted to create an alternative approach to architecture, he termed this communication: Sculpitecture. His Sculpitecture can be thought of as architectonic, implying that it employ principles, materials and elements of architecture. Caro's exploration also addresses the relationship between architectural space and human form, as architects do.

In Moorhouse (1991, p.30) the outcome of Caro's investigation informed him that: 'sculpture and architecture may be nourished by one another'.

During this time he began to create sculptures which required physical participation from the spectators. These structures intended to measure its proportions against the human body, whilst being explored, walked through, sat and climbed on and also used as viewing platforms.

The Sculpitecture method can be associated with the Cubist style as this movement shares similar qualities regarding the understanding of the object. Sculpitecture, like the Cubist style encouraged the spectator to acquire a particular understanding of the works internal character, which relates to the knowledge gained from the artist walking around it, as discussed in chapter one. Caro's aim was not to create architecture; instead his investigation became a conscious effort to widen the boundaries of sculpture. In Moorhouse (1991, p.30) Caro said his explorations: 'had to be… sculpture not architecture, not too rooted on the ground, more fly-away'.

In 1990, Tate Gallery invited Caro to make a sculpture specifically for the central space within the Duveen galleries. The Octagon Tower, also known as the Tower of Discovery was created by Caro. This installation was developed based on the relationship between spatial form and spectator interaction and was crafted from steel. It formed a network of planes in addition to curved and irregular shapes. The Tower was based on an exploration of staircases which were considered as sculptural elements rather than architectural devices. The tower consisted of six staircases, five of which are visible from the outside of the tower and the sixth spiral staircase was enclosed within the central column. The staircases provided access to viewing platforms and levels; in architecture staircases are devices with a function. By sculpturally manipulating these devices, Caro deliberately pushed the functional quality of the staircase into the background. The staircases within the tower became progressively narrow, forcing spectators to adjust the shape of their bodies in order to move through the connecting passages.

Caro intended the enclosed spatial experience within the sculpture to form questions concerning the spectators understanding towards the nature of the sculpture and how they physically relate to it. Caro believed the boundaries between sculpture and architecture could be achieved by drawing them into a complementary relationship. In Moorhouse work (1991, p.33) Caro, during a lecture in 1991, argued the need for better reciprocation between sculpture and architecture: 'In the Renaissance, architect and sculptor worked closely, often practiced both disciplines'. In Caro's view, Sculpitecture manifests the ideal of communication of thought achieved through the integration of both disciplines, therefore creating a combined experience of sculptural or artistic installations and architecture.

The findings from chapter three demonstrate potential benefits through multidisciplinary approaches, explored within architectural, philosophical and artistic thought. Disciplines can be compatible in order to generate alternative approaches towards architectural and artistic thought, which benefits a user's spatial experience. Chapter four will investigate a case study and compare all topics discussed in the first, second and third chapters.

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