Representation

Royal Academy Forum images so as to establish a constant version of the things that pass partially and fleetingly before us. What we have seen influences what we now see. What we have been taught to see shapes our vision. And as we see we also feel and think. Ruskin believed that the unconscious, or semi-conscious ideas that come as we look at things could interfere with the truth of our perception. In cultural terms, people's eyes can be corrupted by conventions of one kind or another, most especially by the ways in which they are taught to see. That is why Ruskin stood out against not only the conventional tastes that rejected the fresh visions first of Turner and then of the Pre-Raphaelites, but all three of the principal means by which visual perception was formally shaped in the nineteenth century.

First, he learned to reject the gentlemanly amateur tradition of the Picturesque, the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century watercolour landscape tradition in which he had himself been trained. Second, he became the implacable enemy of the official, government-promoted method for training artists and designers, the so-called South Kensington system managed by the Department of Science and Art. Third, he was critical of the training of fine artists, as exemplified by what he called the 'base system' for teaching students in the schools of the Royal Academy, which, he said, 'destroys the greater number of its pupils altogether; it hinders and paralyses the greatest'. His reasoning was important because it went beyond criticizing the framing of conventional Neo-Classical perception by studying from the antique. Teaching of art began with training the eye and the hand - but it had also to develop the mind. No art teaching, said Ruskin, 'could be of use to you, but would rather be harmful, unless it was grafted on something deeper than all art'.

Sight was intended to lead to insight. Ruskin did not confuse imitation with representation. He regarded the pleasure derived from imitation as the most contemptible that can be derived from art, because mere imitation is mere deception. What Ruskin wanted to get at was the truth. Truth in painting, he said, 'signifies the faithful statement, either to the mind or the senses, of any fact of nature'. These 'facts of nature' could be discovered by diligent visual observation. But, 'Imitation can only be of something material, but truth has reference to statements both of the qualities of material things, and of emotions, impressions and thoughts. There is a moral as well as material truth; a truth of impression as well as of form, of thought as well as of matter, and the truth of impression and thought is a thousand times the more important of the two'.

Further, 'Truth may be stated by any signs or symbols which have a definite signification in the minds of those to whom they are addressed, although such signs be themselves no image nor likeness of anything. Whatever can excite in the mind the conception of certain facts, can give ideas of truth, though it be in no degree the imitation or resemblance of those facts'.

True sight leads to insight, true insight leads to revelation. This triadic structure corresponds to his theory of the imagination: first what he called the penetrative imagination saw clearly and deeply, then the associative imagination brought these perceptions towards unity, while the contemplative imagination meditated on and expressed the spiritual, symbolic truths so revealed.

The whole of Ruskin's art theory, in a sense, comes back to representing the sphere, an exercise in the first order of truth. We cannot begin to talk about representation, until there is something to represent, and if we do not know what it is that we wish to represent, know it physically, through the co-ordination of hand and eye, and know it morally, through the openness and clarity of our vision, we will never be able to begin our journey. As Ruskin famously said, 'The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion - all in one'.

Christopher Le Brun

When Caspar David Friedrich claimed that, 'The artist should paint not only what he sees before him, but also what he sees within himself. If he sees nothing within himself he should also forgo painting what he sees before him ...', he not only captured the essence of Romanticism; he also posed a fundamental question with which art has been concerned ever since. If, as Friedrich states, perception and imagination throw up 'truths at least as important as objective reality', the issue is how to find ideas and techniques for representation which avoid contingency and randomness, and allow the work of art to establish significance and meaning.

Representation in art achieves significance (or depth) when it relates to a shared background of memory and association. I would argue that culture is established by critical accumulation and diminished by substitution. Just as in the forest, great trees depend for their size and majesty on dense and diverse brushwood, so new layers and developments in art have a symbiotic relationship with individual works which nourishes their potential to convey meaning.

George Steiner described the way literature achieves this level of resonance as the 'field of prepared echo'. With this image, he vividly conveys the working of the canon of Western art. It is the agreed given of what is seen, through the test of permanence, to have value, and allows density of meaning to build up. Without this density, high culture is impossible. In such a field new ideas and how they speak within history can be rapidly and intuitively understood. An analogy in the visual arts might be to picture a loose grid, existing in three spatial dimensions and evolving over time. Within it, compositional formulae and repeated patterns in favoured dispositions come to acquire meaning. We see them superimposed comparatively in our imaginations. The differences and symmetries

Opposite, Christopher Le Brun RA, Aram Nemus Vult, 1988-89. Oil on canvas, 271 x 444cm, Astrup Fearnley, Museum of Modern Art, Oslo.

Right, Philip Guston, 19131980, Dial, 1956. Oil on canvas, 72 x 76in (182.88 x 193.04cm), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Purchase 56.44.

create allusion and resonance. On this imaginary field, memories gather and grow by association and proximity. In Western painting, the field comes to develop separate spaces: foreground, middle distance, background. Each has its own defining archetypes of colour, character, story and form.

We sense the existence of this implicit format most strongly in Poussin, Claude and the subsequent development of the Picturesque. This imaginary, and seemingly tacit agreement within pictorial culture has had such lasting potency that I think of it, certainly in relation to my own work as an artist, as virtually a death-defying given of apparently transcendental significance. In modern times it breaks to the surface in Cézanne, and then in Cubism. In rising to explicitness, however, its effect is changed fundamentally.

Since the late nineteenth century, these complex features of compositional memory which dominate the pictorial, relational art of the West, have been tested. During the twentieth century, aesthetic L» characteristics such as formal reduction and singularity, rather than and metaphor, become pre-eminent. Truth resides in the concrete and the objective. Simplicity is synonymous with honesty. Only the everyday (always the street and never the palace) is authentic.

In the case of the first generation of American abstract painters such as Rothko and Clifford Still, a grand and brave simplicity is certainly achieved. But I would argue that their work is still (in mid century) in touch and dependent on art historical memory and references to the former model. At such close range (50 years) their aesthetic denials and adventures retain meaning.

Yet the possibility for creating this web of meaning, allusion, memory and association did not of course entirely disappear in the twentieth century. The pair of exhibitions at Tate Modern on Constantin Brancusi and Donald Judd early in 2004 shows the contrast. Each finds the poetic in apparently irreconcilable worlds. Subjective compared to objective, carved to assembled, refined to raw. It is a division which runs through twentieth-century art between the associative and the putative re-presentation of reality. A powerful example of the persistence of this imaginary field in late twentieth-century art is seen in the work of the painter Philip Guston. He, like me, has felt the

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the ground to create car parking below a green belt, how ground form, roof shape and structure ease the flow of air and invite movement of people. Having a degree of familiarity with Dublin probably helped the thinking for the Millennium Spire to happen quickly. It was an intuitive idea which became architectural, sculptural, and structural. I wanted the stand at Crystal Palace to capture the essential form of the bowl Joseph Paxton created. It sweeps up to the stage, reflecting sound and air, like a leaf in the park. The urban scene is full of images that carry meaning, which may lie, for instance, in a technical effect or perhaps in memory. A small intervention may alter the balance between images and profoundly affect their meaning, and it is in sifting and synthesizing these ideas and influences, helping to understand their repercussions, that language is so powerful. As words develop into images they pick up and evolve knowledge.

Roger Penrose

I write as a mathematician who finds drawing and other forms of visual representation immensely helpful. I can think of several different ways in which such visual imagery can be important in mathematical work. In the first place, there is the following major division:

• Internal, ie, aids to one's own mathematical understanding

• External, ie, aids to the conveying of such understanding to others. There are many different ways to think about mathematics, and there are considerable differences among mathematicians as to which modes of thinking come most easily. I think that the main division between such modes of thinking comes with the visual/geometric, on one hand and the verbal/algebraic/calculational, on the other. On the whole, the best mathematicians are good at both modes of thinking, but my experience has been that with mathematics students, there is much more difficulty on the geometric side than on the algebraic/calculational side. As for myself, I find that geometrical thinking is what comes most naturally, and I often try to convert mathematical problems into a geometrical form first before I feel happy about trying to solve them. However, I frequently find difficulties when trying to convey my understandings to other mathematicians, or students, if I use too geometrical a formulation, as they tend to be happier with algebraic/calculational types of argument.

However, there is a curious paradox here. I am often asked to give lectures to non-mathematical (or mixed) audiences, and then the request usually takes the form 'use lots of pictures, so the audience will find it easier'. This is generally good advice, and it is certainly the case that pictures rather than equations are normally much better for conveying information - even fairly technical information - to lay audiences. The puzzle is: why is it that professional mathematicians, and those aspiring to be professional mathematicians, give the impression of being more unhappy with visual types of thinking than lay members of the interested general public? Here I venture, as a solution to this puzzle, that there is a selection effect, arising from the fact that it is much harder to examine visual mathematical ability than calculational or algebraic skills. When I was in my final year as a mathematics undergraduate, I chose geometrical subjects for my specialist topics, but I believe that I fared a good deal better on the algebra papers than on the geometrical ones. The reason was that although I did not have difficulty in solving the geometrical problems, I found it to be difficult, and particularly time consuming, to express this understanding in words, as was necessary. Moreover, in mathematical arguments, an appropriate degree of rigour is always needed, for arguments to be acceptable. This is often difficult to express adequately with geometrical reasoning, even when such reasoning may, in essence, be perfectly correct. Accordingly, those who rely on geometrical types compelling pull of this invisible model which suffuses Western art. Guston's paintings with their tidal shifts towards and away from representation, show a grid-like sensual abstract painting interpenetrating figurative, illustrative pictures. Depictions and thought-touches seem to emerge from the wealth of the painter's memory, giving them an interiority akin to the reflexiveness of literature. His paintings exist within a mature metaphysical realm for the projection of emotion and form.

What I am arguing for is a more organized form of subjectivity along the lines of Caspar David Friedrich's injunction. It is a Classical and informed subjectivity, depending on thoughtfulness and reflection, and its effect is to allow pictures to maintain their elusiveness and privacy even when their meaning is manifestly present in the public realm.

Ian Ritchie: language to architectural calligraphy

My design process always starts with an idea, and ideas can come from many sources. Some might be environmental; others are functional, social or structural, or sculptural in the case of the Jubilee Line vents, but they exist as ideas without a clear representation. The meaning and value of an idea lies in language, so I find language a fundamental tool for exploring ideas. As a student in Liverpool and spending a lot of time at the Everyman Theatre where the poet Roger McGough opened up my appreciation of language, I saw how words can investigate rather than determine an idea. This is a pre-drawing form of representation which I develop through language. Through draughting and redraughting, words help to concentrate an idea and bring it into focus. How this happens varies. The outcome might be descriptive or abstract; sometimes it may depend on metaphor and at other times it is more literal.

Once words have given a theme or idea some existence, the next challenge is to capture it visually. In the past I used models, moulding a piece of plasticene to find the form, but more often now I use Japanese or Chinese brushes - the calligraphy of the title. The idea must exist before I can paint around it, but using different techniques of representation helps to develop it. Alba diMilano, for example, originated as a beam of light. Milan's reputation for making fine cloth suggested the idea of weaving, so it started to evolve into a cloth of light woven from fibre optics, which emit light when broken. My first painting was a black line on a white piece of paper. Using ground on copper plate, the etching reversed that, turning it into a flash of white against a black ground.

For White City Shopping Centre I wanted to capture ideas about shopping that I had described in writing. I had written about how air might flow through the spaces and the roof modulate sunlight, about how there could be views and routes to parkland on either side, and how the effect might reconfigure the relationship between shopping and the city. An early ink drawing conveys those ideas, initially formed

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in words with a few simple brushstrokes showing the manip>[email protected]; centre. Fig 2; righ^ Fig 3, The Crea° Having Trouble Locatngthe RigM Universeby Roger Penrose, mixed media 29x25cm.

Royal Academy Forum of understanding are at a disadvantage in examinations, and consequently they become under represented in the mathematical community at large. My own experience with visual imagery - and this applies within both the above categories (internal and external), though with a somewhat different balance within each - is that it can take many forms. There are, indeed, various ways in which I have found visual representations to be immensely valuable. In my own work, either as an essential aid to mathematical understanding and research, or for expositional purposes, I can distinguish at least four categories:

(a) Schematic diagrams representing mathematical concepts.

(b) Accurate representation of geometrical configurations.

(c) A precise diagrammatic notation for algebraic calculations.

(d) Cartoons, often whimsical, to illuminate key points.

My notebooks are full of sketches depicting (a), the pictures frequently represent mathematical structures of higher dimension than is apparent. The configuration in Fig 1 is a drawing of mine from an article 'Mathematics of the Impossible',* and it illustrates a non-periodic tiling of the plane from just two different birdlike shapes. The type of precise geometrical notation that I frequently use, in accordance with (c), is illustrated in Fig 2, from another notebook of mine. The (whimsical) cartoon of Fig 3 is one that I have used a number of times in lectures, and it illustrates the extraordinary precision with which the universe must have started up (at the Big Bang), in order to be consistent with observation and with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I feel honoured that it has been exhibited as part of the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition 2004 under the title 'The creator having trouble locating the right universe'.

* The Artful Eye, edited by Richard Gregory, John Harris, Priscilla Heard, and David Rose, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995, p326.

Abigail Reynolds

Ruskin established a clear line between drawing and comprehension, arguing that drawing triggers looking, and looking leads to understanding. But Robert Hewison's discussion of Ruskin suggests that he saw the entire benefit came in producing a drawing, leaving open the question of whether seeing a drawing has the same order of significance. In art, Richter points out, seeing is the decisive act, so how the artist can enable the viewer to share this central act completely becomes the vital issue. I am especially interested in how art can become a tool for thinking, and potentially elevate the viewer's thought process over the artist's. Art should open an avenue for active thought.

Having made Mount Fear, which represents crime statistics as a mountain range, I am looking at developing further strategies for representing the abstract by sculptural and physical modelling. Among these was my work as artist in residence for the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED is already a representation in at least two senses: its content represents culture through time, and its aesthetic represents authority. It is constantly changed and updated, and although it outwardly aspires only to be descriptive, mapping change in language, its aesthetic of authority confuses this by being set up as an arbiter of what is and is not correct. But in shaping the chaos of experience and imposing order, the OED has points in common with art.

I approached the OED by looking at systems and structures of meaning in lexicography and art, connecting the experiences of my first degree in English and my second in Fine Art. The OED itself is

Abigail Reynolds, working drawing for The Frozen Sea, 2004.

interested in opening up discussion of the place of lexicography and dictionary-making in our culture to a wider audience, but I am especially drawn to it because, as a project, it teeters on the brink of folly. The hubris of documenting all of language, a moving target, is almost monumentally absurd, and also heroic. It can never be done.

My year as Artist in Residence at the OED had many joys. The simplest of these was, when asked where my studio is, to be able to respond 'in the Dictionary'.

Of course, when I say Dictionary, I mean a department of 70 lexicographers, whereas my questioner imagines a set of 20 volumes. I mean an ongoing daily process; they think of a printed authority. Suddenly, in this gap, emerges a mental image of me, shrunk like Alice moving through a world of words. It is a really enjoyable disjunction, and one which lies at the centre of my approach to creating a visual art work that responds to the OED.

I started to produce word mappings quite soon after arriving in the department. Paul Klee, when drawing, would take a line for a walk. I spend time taking words for walks. Choosing a word, I sniff around it, following cross-references and other hints in the OED. The word group grows and is shaped over time as I add and subtract semantic and etymological links, arranging and re-arranging until a satisfying form evolves. Words have a shape which can amount to a secret history of their mutated meanings over time. What I find important in this phase

Abigail Reynolds, working drawing for The Frozen Sea, 2004.

of my work is the methodology of visually mapping information and the psychological and emotional dimension that comes out of it.

The Frozen Sea installation began in the word check-mate. Following its semantic and etymological connections took me through the various strands of the meanings of words such as check, exchequer, chess, jeopardy, hazard, and draughts. Having mapped 'check' to a level that satisfied me (about forty terms), I set about the problem of materializing this map. No map can convey every detail to a reader, as the information would be overwhelming. I chose to focus only on the relations between words. To know if and how words relate, their relative ages and etymologies have to be known. As my map contained semantic links, this too would have to be recognized. I chose three rules to describe the word map in three dimensions: semantic = beside, etymological = on top of, word age = volume.

For The Frozen Sea I decided to create a study, with desks, chairs, filing cabinets, a full set of the OED, blackboards and so on. Having gathered my objects, I ranked them by volume and assigned a word from the 'check' word map to each, based on the simple correspondence that the largest volume should represent the term longest in use, the smallest, the word that had been in use for the most fleeting moment. Having assigned objects to words I arranged them according to my three rules: objects representing words that related semantically were placed beside one another; those with an etymological connection were stacked horizontally. The room became a working study and simultaneously, a grid with X and Y coordinates.

Richard Long maps his journeys through the landscape in stones and sticks, objects to hand. I have mapped my journey through the forest of words in anglepoise lamps and chairs, also with objects to hand. The Mexican artist Damien Ortega's recent work Matter and Spirit places text and materiality in disjunctive conjunction. Michael Craig-Martin's 1970s work An Oak Tree looks at the mysterious chemistry of naming and duality of matter and sign. I situate The Frozen Sea in relation to these works.

To return to the experience of the viewer - the installation is activated when the viewer begins to piece together the logic behind the study. The work operates as an invitation to the viewer to think through the process of decision and doubt that has created the form. It is a detective work. This is a strategy that I employ to activate the work. The decisive process of seeing is a re-perceiving. As in a conspiracy theory, things are not what they seem. Every element of the piece has a dual meaning. The desk is indeed a place where a lexicographer has been at work, with the fetishization usual in the preserved studies of thinkers like Darwin. It is also a tool that has been used in the task of working out, and also directly represents a word in the group being mapped. The title was chosen to suggest a momentary fixing of a flow of particles. The arrangement will give way to another as another word is mapped.

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Graham Modlen, Office of Zaha Hadid

Drawings by Zaha Hadid's office are powerful representations of ideas and possibilities and when I started there I had to fathom out what they might represent. The drawings I had seen previously for the Hong Kong Peak project stimulated me to think forward, to wonder that if you could do that to Hong Kong, what were the possibilities for other cities? I soon realized that this type of drawing is a process where everything is to be re-imagined, shattered and then put back together again. It is as if we are asked to suspend belief and to turn the project round graphically and re-present it. Drawing allows different people to invent and interpret, and contribute to the process. It is a real studio system.

One of Zaha's earliest commissions was a rooftop conversion in Halkin Place in Belgravia. The drawings show the flat interior with the walls blown away and the plan drawn within a floating isometric projection. Fittings and furniture are sometimes on the floor and sometimes floating. The wall is drawn as if it were a new plane through which light shines. It has a sort of surreal air to it. But the drawings also re-imagine the home ground; certain elements become recognizable; you can make out the streets with the familiar duality of a regular edge to the street and a serrated back edge. The technique of drawing she inaugurated has become a hallmark of the office. It allows anyone in the office, whether they know London or not, to reinvent it and show us how it could be.

By the time of the competition for the Grand Buildings site in the mid-1980s, the techniques for drawing had evolved into a collective effort. The project was an opportunity to reinvent or imagine an idealized version of Trafalgar Square. In the drawings the square itself might be recognizable but what lies behind it has changed. The river gets lost and there are several strange undulations. Various people in the team contributed perspectival drawings, representing their ideas or knowledge of the city but, I think, they were put together with Zaha's steadying hand.

In the office are sketch books of drawings by Zaha, which are something like diaries. They may not refer to any particular project, but they are forward thoughts and reflections on past ideas. She can present them to the studio in a way which launches everybody off, or she may say, 'there's a sketch I did which may ... but you will have to study it'. We tease out what might relate to the project in discussion. It may

94 | 2 Zollhof, Düsseldorf, by Zaha Hadid Architects.

be the silhouette that has some significance, or perhaps one image is laid over another to fathom out the kernel of the plan. The result is multi-layered and the original thought may become indistinct.

With computers and copiers we can deal with all sorts of distortions. We can twist plans, build up layers and distort distances. The introductory images of the Rome Contemporary Arts Centre were 'reliefs' built up from two or three layers of cut card to give depth to the ground in plan. That then feeds ideas about the roof structure and for walls which descend and create outdoor spaces.

At the Mind Zone in the Millennium Dome, our task was to represent the workings of the mind through an interaction of architecture, art and an understanding of neurology. Its form of three overlapping snake-like shapes resembling curving lasagne layers and forms, was described as piece of sculpture and exhibitry itself with smaller elements of sculpture and exhibits inside, something like a Russian doll. The position of the steel trusses related to circulation patterns and the dome's shape; we tickled and pushed it with cantilevers and distortions. The idea was that people walking along ramps would come across exhibits that aimed, for example, to play with visual perception, communication and identity. One of the exhibits was a built spatial per-spectival trick comprising a 4m high sculpture by Gavin Turk which distorted distances. Another was a computer program which reworked a photograph of yourself to change gender, race and age.

Our drawing techniques are ways not just of representing, but finding and developing ideas. For example the 'mid-construction' views of Cardiff Bay Opera House were drawn on black paper, but from the use of white paint, for example, it seemed to me an idea came about the use of light. In another, earlier project from 1993, based on an ex-dockland site in Düsseldorf, which combined a radio station, hotel and media offices, the team made a number of exploratory works including a mixed, hybrid perspective which was as if wringing a cloth. Out of it came different views represented in one painterly composition. Representation is part of the process of thinking.

Paul Schütze

When I make pieces based on architecture, I aim to document the experience of a building rather than the building itself. Peter Zumthor's Thermal Baths in Vals captivated me partly because the building seems to have its own internal weather systems. Each room achieves its own micro climate with distinctive temperature, humidity and tepidity. Some spaces also link with the exterior bringing an unexpected haptic transparency. Rooms register as much on the skin as the eye or the ear. There are extraordinary acoustic phenomena articulated by varieties in scale, materials and ceiling heights. I was struck by how rich an experience the building would offer to someone who could not see. While its visual impact is considerable, the architect has addressed each of the senses extravagantly. Another feature is the way its water surfaces appear as part of the compositional mass of the building and yet are occupiable as spaces. This produces an almost eerie intimacy with the materials and the structure itself.

The Janta Manta series takes the remarkable structures built as astronomical observatories under the Mughal Emperor Jai Singh II. Their form determined by need, they have a minimal amount of ornament, but they make an engaging collection of sculptural forms which seem strangely contemporary despite being several hundred

Paul Schütze: From the Garden of Instruments III, 2004. Lightbox, 92 x 128.4cm. Edition of three. Copyright holder: Paul Schütze. Images courtesy of Alan Christea Gallery, London.

years old. There are three of these complexes in India and while I have seen only the one in Jaipur, I chose to model the Delhi structure familiar to me only from incomplete accounts, plans and photographic records. I was keen to make an idealized version which I think reveals more of the hubris but also the beauty of these three structures.

After we had made a CAD model of the site, I attempted to deconstruct the buildings by projecting animated views onto a moving stainless-steel mesh armature and re-filming the result. Most elements in the buildings are visible, and their essence survives being pulled across a complex series of curves. I was interested to see how the basic geometry would withstand this sort of distortion of representation. It is an example of what I call 'vertical memory', where the essence of compressed experience survives this sort of mangling. This also relates to our own inability to recall accurately which gives rise to a poetic sensibility forced to rebuild objects and experiences in our own minds. If there is a common grammar, each small part might contain the phraseology for the whole.

When I introduce sound into a work I use Dolby Surround which defines a pronounced spatial configuration. I do not want a sense of front or a formal planar way of seeing a building. I want the same flexibility in experiencing representation that we take for granted in the experience of the represented.

the expe com f the two films to which this project gave rise has a sequence in which I overlay blurred and distorted images. This simple act of blurring curiously introduces a level of sight which for me becomes more permanently embedded than conventional means of representation. It also shows up a particular problem with pristine architectural photographs and renderings. Their apparently inexhaustible detail drawing you closer and closer to the surface, until the photographic grain interposes itself between you and the building represented.

Using a different approach to representation raises questions about the 'habitability' of the representation itself; that is, about how it can invite you past its own surface. I find similar problems in representation with text and while I use text extensively in my work it is often in a form which acknowledges this difficulty. I spend some time labouring over the words and have a programme which will then display them as a fine grid floating apparently within the image like a fog. While the meaning is still present, it becomes lost in the image, almost irretrievable, an obscuring tint across the surface of things.

Their numerous staircases aiming at the sky in elaborate calibrations and dishes, the Janta Manta are buildings entirely determined by light, moonlight, starlight or sunlight. That is why I chose to render the structures in glass. How the building both depends on light and arose purely from light sets up all sorts of fascinating possibilities for its representation. 95 12

[Architecture.Ebook] The Architectural Review - Sellection(2002-2005)

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Will Alsop

I am always curious that the biggest critics of our architecture are not members of the public but other architects. In general the community responds well to our designs as we can show through visitor numbers, but something we do lies outside the academic conventions of how to make architecture. Because academics have to make their way up the university ladder there are more books on architectural methodology than even architectural history - but they do not work. No self-respecting architect would follow any of their principles.

To me it does not matter where you start. Even digital media simply offer another design tool; it is quick and can be dangerous, but not completely different to the pencil or other traditional techniques. The essential starting point is to de-programme yourself, which is why we work with local communities, by handing them a pencil or a paintbrush, and at the same time a glass of wine.

Where you work is an equally important part of the question of representation. In my own studio (not my office) where I work with two or three assistants, there is a bar which is sometimes used as a bar, so there is a social function to the layout. But it divides the space into a dirty and a clean side, with computers, a fridge and a sofa on one side, a large plywood wall for stapling or projecting things on the other. The dialogue this invites between clean and dirty is like the open discussions that take place in art schools: dialogue happens almost without its participants realizing. Our layout also allows us to see things and possibly to misinterpret them, which can be as important in the creative process as understanding.

Here we can recognize reality but also explore its limits. We work with different scales and techniques of representation. When architects are usually responsible for the largest artefacts in the world, it seems strange that they often work at a small scale. The key is to use the whole body because that gives a relatisnslpb<1|@iy

Continuity is important too, because all our projects are really one work. An extraordinary concept you might have at the age of 21 is as valid when you are 56; you just have more wisdom to explore that concept in other ways, but hopefully with no less vibrancy. It is important to keep up a process of discovery and invention. Often I spend time in the summer on Minorca with Bruce Maclean, not working on any particular project but doing something else. These sessions might throw up some interesting shapes, forms or ideas which could find their way into design projects. We would have to do further studies to interpret how to build them, but in reality drawing, making and realization are all aspects of the same process.

Discovery is an important part of our activities. We did not impose the Ontario College of Art and Design on the community; rather it came out of the community. We extended the park to the street so people who live on it can walk straight out into the park, which is now animated by the lively people who occupy the art school.

Our project 'Not the Tate' for Barking Reach in the Thames Gateway shows how we use various techniques of representation to explore the implications of particular starting points. At the moment, the area is not on the mental map of Londoners and most proposals for it are overly academic. Our proposal is to give a series of large wooden huts over to the London art schools - one of the city's great secrets - and curate a landscape of activity with work in, on or around each hut, fed by plenty of food and drink and free parking.

In Montreal we tried another relationship between starting point and means of representation. To engage the public we built a 40m long tube of canvas for public and students to explore what this piece of Montreal could be. As it starts to break down assumptions, the design team begins to interact with the public. In part it is an exuberant messing about with paint, but it is also a documented series of ideas. It helps me to find something outside myself; although mixed with my cultural baggage it also engenders a sense of shared ownership of the ideas.

In general, we do not talk about designing buildings but about discovering what they want to be. That voyage of discovery has to be a very open process.

96 | 2 human scale and the scale of what you want to do.

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I, Queen Mary's College, under construction.

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I, Queen Mary's College, under construction.

[Architecture.Ebook] The Architectural Review - Sellection(2002-2005)

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