Narrative Space Day Three - Post Ten

Well, really, these are some thoughts which I had, and a short prescie of Adam Caruso's talk at Nottingham Contemporary Arts Centre yesterday. But I had to post it now, because by the time we got back to Leicester I had literally fifteen minutes to get out of the house to go to the conference dinner last night! So sorry about that...

'Experience and Interpretation' Adam Caruso

What is it to build a place for contemporary art? asks Adam Caruso. He is, himself, heavily influenced by art in his practice as an architect. When he began, the contemporary arts scene in the UK was, he felt, far more vibrant than architecture. CarusoStJohn Architects gained a reputation for understanding contemporary art and the spaces in which it exists.

A number of exhibitions have achieved legendary status in his own mind, and therefore the prime motive for Caruso is making exhibitions memorable. Architecture should, he argues, have a commonality with the content, sharing the needs and purposes of the art. Taking inspiration from united places, such as churches and palaces, and houses designed around art such as the Lembach House and Leighton House, he argues that architecture should work in concord with the art, should feel right.

But he also argues, correctly, that while you need to be site specific, something which has come up a lot this week, you also need to build in this the opportunity for development and change.

Actually, part of this might be acheived through working with spaces not originally designed for art. Through his work with artists, he has learned that they very often enjoy working in found spaces, spaces not built for art, facing the challenges and taking the opportunities which these offer. The success of PS1 in New York is an example of this.

This idea of 'found spaces' very much influenced his work on Nottingham Contemporary. The brief for this he found inspiring, open to the idea of artist run places so popular in the 1960s, time-based practice art as well as installation art, and a sense of the role of the audience in completing the artwork. They allowed room for a shifting programme, for change, and development.

The site was one which was found, an old industrial site near the old Lace factories. This made history deeply influential on the project, and it was also important that the building spoke to the present environment in which it sat. Thus there is a large hard landscaping element to the project. The masonry of the building is reflective of the sandstone escarpments for which Nottingham is famous, the gold camera structures on the roof echoing the buildings which lie atop them. The cladding of the building reflects the lace making past of the city.

This talk was inspiring, really interesting and powerful. And interestingly, the space we were sitting in listening to it, was a space which was found during the excavations of the site. I have to say that I was deeply impressed with the space of the building and will, one day, return when I've more time, and more brain power.


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