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A Blanketing Field of Cotton Poplin Words Oli Stratford Photographs Murray Ballard

“I’m from Sweden and I came to London to study fashion. I started off my education in Stockholm in dressmaking and tailoring. I did an internship for the theatre and eventually worked for a tailor for quite a few years. I also worked as a buyer for an interiors store and at the same time I did my own one-off pieces that I sold in a few stores in Stockholm. But I wanted to be part of a team and I wanted an education in fashion. So I went to Middlesex University for a BA then I ended up at the Royal College of Art.” Profile


Gustafsson photographed in the garden surrounding the Serpentine Sackler Gallery. Cos has been a partner of the Serpentine Galleries for a number of years.

of design whose values (and value) are invariable. Cos, the brand’s reputation would have you believe, are the adults in the room: the designers creating garments fitted for the age we live in, because they’re creating garments fitted to any age. Or so the story runs. In reality, the chain of -isms seems no more escapable now than it was during the days of the international style. Just as capitalism is adept at omnivorous commodification of its challengers, so too is style calculated to co-opt and incorporate any and all efforts to put paid to its hegemony: functionalism has become a style like any other, and one that is by now laden with its own vagaries, subjectivities and absurdities. Moreover, it’s a style under threat, with the New Nordics appearing increasingly antiquated in their home countries in the face of a younger generation of Scandinavian designers such as Hilda Hellström, Fredrik Paulsen and Anton Alvarez who have opted to pursue more naive forms of expression. Even within

mainstream discourse, there are further causes for doubt. Swedish Design Moves, a Swedish government-sponsored design-outreach programme, chose to launch in February 2017 with the slogan, “There is more to Swedish design than the cool contemporary minimalism it is known for.” Is the same fate likely to befall Cos? Here, Gustafsson inadvertently sounds a warning. “I really believe [design tendencies] don’t start with fashion,” she says. “They start with art, architecture and design, which are well ahead of fashion, if you see what I mean. When you’re a fashion student and can do anything you like, you wouldn’t go and look at what a certain fashion brand has done. You would look towards different disciplines that can make you think and feel something.” But for now, Cos remains a loyal disciple to Pevsner’s “one and only style”. As research for this article, the brand sent me an access code to a password-protected archive of press materials. My allotted password was “timeless”. END 96


of designers and architects to the development of the material was essential. “Right after the Second World War, the Cappoferris began close, project-based collaborations with architects and professionals,” says Mariotti. “These creative minds effectively came to develop the material with the manufacturers.” It is an approach towards material that finds numerous contemporary parallels. Between 2014 and 2017, the

people who had anticipated its return came pouring in. In our first contact with DWA, it was quite evident that they had been searching for a long time, for instance. We talked about the history and its production techniques for hours.” In particular, De Wachter and Artesani were interested in examining the dimensions of traditional silipol slabs and finding ways to use the material on a smaller, more accessible scale. “DWA had the vision to create new dimensions of the silipol slab,” says Mariotti, “which was a real challenge for us as we only knew how to make floors and walls.” From DWA’s perspective, the move into a new sphere of design was a means of presenting silipol as a revitalised material and a way of hinting at future applications outside of architecture. “Wherever we see a material that can be used in another context, we try to repurpose it,” says Artesani, “Even from just seeing silipol on the wall, we felt it could give something to a contemporary project. We were interested in the material because of its beauty, but also because it is related to a particular period in architectural history that we associated with. It is amazing how the ideas of that period can inform our designs so fluently today.” Silipol was developed at a time of material scarcity, and in a context where the boundaries between industrial production and handcraft techniques were porous and under question. In this respect, DWA’s decision to revisit it is perhaps no surprise. The issues that silipol were calculated to address in the 1950s remain vital today, and study of its rise and fall may inform the strategies through which designers attempt to address these issues in a contemporary context. “Mariotti has invested a lot of research and energy to find the way to bring this material to the design world and trusted in our ideas,” says Artesani. “But the most important point of bringing silipol back was the opportunity to dwell in its history.” E N D

“Whenever we see a material that can be used in another context, we try to repurpose it.” —Alberto Artesani Israeli engineered stone company Caesarstone, for instance, has collaborated with designers Raw Edges, Philippe Malouin, Tom Dixon and Jaime Hayon on a series of installations for Milan’s Salone del Mobile that, while not challenging production, do employ the brand’s manufactured quartz material in new applications: a swingset designed by Malouin and huge tribal masks crafted by Hayon chief amongst them. Similarly, the architectural materials company Dzek launched in 2014 with marmoreal, a form of terrazzo developed by the designer Max Lamb that employs an exaggerated marble aggregate to create an aesthetic reminiscent of nougat. For the launch, Lamb developed an installation in which an entire room was covered in marmoreal from floor to ceiling, complete with matching furniture created out of slabs of Dzek’s terrazzo. Meanwhile, Stéphane Halmaï-Voisard and Philippe-Albert Lefebvre’s Terrazzo Project, founded in 2011, has similarly sought to revitalise its chosen material through production of terrazzo furniture for a domestic setting. In spite of these precedents, however, and even after Mariotti had taken over the production of silipol, it took almost 10 years until DWA Studio approached the manufacturer and begun to work on Silipol Studies N.1 and N.2. “When we took over Fulget it was evident that the Capoferris had not done any promotion in quite a while,” says Mariotti. “It was impossible to find silipol unless you knew where to look, but as soon as we began communicating the fact that the material was back in production, calls from

86


2 Belfast Road It is in the mess and detritus of a studio that the opportunity to work freely can be found. Introduction Johanna Agerman Ross Photographs Max Creasy Photoessay


112


Spiritual Reconstruction Words Lemma Shehadi Photographs Giles Price

In a quiet corner of the Hanuman Dhoka Palace complex in Nepal’s Kathmandu Durbar Square, a man prays at the Hanuman shrine in the early morning. The cloaked image of the deity is surrounded by scaffolding to protect it in case the neighbouring buildings collapse. Along the palace complex, and in Durbar Square in general, most of the edifices are cordoned off to protect the public. Yet, despite the dangers, thousands of people worship the Hanuman and other deities nearby, daily. Travelogue


the importance of involving local communities. Committees representing these groups have been set up in the Kathmandu Valley, with varying levels of success. “In Bhaktapur the good relationship between the local community and the local government has aided the restoration work,” says Awal, who is himself from Bhaktapur. “The deadlock over Kasthamandap has shown the lack of coordination between communities and their local governments,” says Prasuj Mainali, a young volunteer with Rebuild Kasthamandap. “We need locally elected local-government bodies.” Underlying these issues is a demand for better representation. Until this year, local bodies were appointed by the government. The first local elections in 20 years took place on 14 May 2017. At the time this article was written, the outcomes were not yet announced, but many were hopeful that having a locally elected representative would aid the restoration work. “To preserve the intangible we must protect what is tangible,” says Manhart. “It is around these buildings

and temples that rituals and cultural practices take place.” The inquiry into the reconstruction of sacred spaces revealed wide-ranging disconnects between tradition and modernity; communities and their government; local conditions and international guidelines; myth and the scientific documentation of history. Yet the living heritage of the Kathmandu Valley is resilient. “People still come to worship here and there are regular ceremonies,” says Ranjitkar, speaking outside the Krishna temple in Patan Durbar Square, which is held up by several layers of scaffolding. “But if we don’t fix the building soon, they will go to a newer Krishna temple nearby. I don’t want that to happen.” It is early evening and women have gathered to pray. Their chanting voices drift out onto the busy square. Teenagers sit on the tiered brick plinths, while a local NGO promotes a new water reservoir. A guide shepherds a group of European tourists around. Yet the threat of administrative delays and a lack of cohesion between the stakeholders may cause this living heritage to become obsolete. E N D 128


To the Street Words Priya Khanchandani Images Christoffer Rudquist

Three and a half years ago, the Edwardian screen that marked the Exhibition Road entrance to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) was dismantled stone by stone. The Aston Webb screen had been installed in 1909 and named for its designer, the architect who also designed the museum’s facade – a structure that evokes Christopher Wren, features domes and spires influenced by Renaissance Pavia, and which was conceived and constructed with the spirit of Empire in mind. Project


The Glitch One of the best treatments of the glitch that I have ever come across is due to Vanellope von Schweetz, the deuteragonist in Disney’s 2012 film Wreck-It Ralph. Introduction Oli Stratford Moderator Jeremy Hutchison Artwork El Ultimo Grito Roundtable


You can see that as part of a wider typology of other forms of deep causality. These are used also to condition societies and put them in order in the same way as the idea of God did. So once the idea of God disappears and the ruling class no longer have to behave to get into heaven, you are suffering from the absence of God. People invented the guillotine as a substitution for God, and that also kept them in line in a certain way, but I don’t think the glitch is going to perform the same role as the guillotine. Now we have these physical, electronic, and socio-economic forces and the question is: what is the art of working with these, commanding them, inventing them? It’s a much more complex challenge than working with the simple forces that animism or organised religion have previously proposed. EUG  Today we are all connected by our computers and we are all dependent on them. You, Matthew, are like a high priest because you know how things work. For someone who doesn’t know how to code, this is like church in the Middle Ages. The priest who knows how to talk to God is like the IT department that knows how to talk to the computer. The average person, like us, is still totally dependent on these priests because we’re completely dependent on the internet and our devices. We just take everything for granted because we don’t understand. We know it exists, like people used to “know” God existed. Jeremy  Those who are really switched on put tape on top of their webcams. There’s this idea of “If they can’t see me, I’ll be OK!” EUG  There is always a degree of superstition around what you do not understand. We put tape over our webcam, just in case. Jeremy  Should we be learning to code, then? Or are we at a stage where sitting down and understanding the technology down to the metal doesn’t actually empower us any more, because of how quickly technology is advancing? Matthew  It’s a wager. It is one way in, but it depends on your context and what you need to get done. I think there is a strong protestant impulse to learn to read the holy book and that is beneficial. But then there are also higher levels and a more abstract understanding of computational forces that are very much around in popular culture. I think a lot of contemporary music is about people understanding how to read shifts in information. Think of jungle, grime, footwork – these are all about trying to

understand complex polyrhythmic information. That is absolutely part of contemporary digital culture already. People should be looking into this stuff, but not everyone needs to do it. There are other ways of gaining the power to be effective. If you look at the recent malware hack, it’s very clear that it comes out of a National Security Agency use of an undisclosed Windows exploit that has been preserved for the NSA to use for at least a few months. The CIA stuff that was dumped on Wikileaks recently has revealed that there are thousands of people working with the American state to maintain these vulnerabilities, to develop the tools to manipulate them, and that they are very closely interwoven with the operations of corporations like Microsoft and Apple. Some 30,000 people are employed by China to maintain the firewall; around the same number are employed by Facebook in the Philippines to maintain the secondary filtering of content. The CIA has several thousands of people developing cyber warfare capabilities. That’s the internet now. Trump is the internet; cyber warfare is the internet; the free intentional communities that arose in the 1960s to the 1990s are also the internet. These are all part of the mix. They are all things to be played with. Jodi 3$SKLLWLLLAALLALLALLALYPpeS.WASWWSWWWOhgqKJ Ewwhg888khgw*k*qiLLLLLuw w—wq_______ qw!???/q__=///== ___=============#$%hgqKJEw whg888khgw*k*qiuw w—wq_______ qw!???/q_//_=== ___==//////////===========q _W___. WW WW ___qw!???/q__==WWWWQq!!g@// fLL$//hgqwhg#$%hgqKJEwwhg888khgw*k*qiuw w— wq_______qw!???/q__=================‘]{!!g@ f//$hgqwhg#$%hgqKJE//////////// wwhg888khgw*k*qiuw w—

Jeremy  A glitch is only a glitch if it is legible. It only

functions if the audience understands what the thing should or shouldn’t be. So much of our digital culture is increasingly hard to read and apprehend in its entirety. Often, I find myself in that curious scenario where you don’t know if you have landed in the glitch – or is this the thing the glitch is glitching off? Jodi —————— | ————| ———| —————— | ————| ———| —————— | pOOpwopq%Q.SopHTta TW</3$SKYPpeS.//oPHT3 33t Skittete S$J] HITwwwwors*ASSWORD———| —————— | END

160


Reviews Reactivate Athens by Urban-Think Tank Words Crystal Bennes Convergence by Ross Lovegrove at the Centre Pompidou Words Anna Yudina Renovation of the Edicule Covering the Tomb of Christ Words Yusuf al Daoud Their Mortal Remains at the V&A Words Will Wiles

Review


Reactivate Athens by Urban-Think Tank Words Crystal Bennes

These lines from revered 20th-century Greek poet, C.P. Cavafy, were written, not five years ago as the troika arrived in Greece demanding the large-scale sell-off of state assets, but in 1928 amid another period of economic turmoil. Crisis has always brought the wolves to the gates. In modern Greece, these wolves have been not only the European Commission, European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and speculators, but also cultural institutions and other creative professionals. The last five years have seen Rethink Athens, unMonastery, IdeasCity Athens, as well as Documenta and Reactivate Athens – all projects in which, to varying degrees, external actors have sought to generate strategies for how to solve or best represent the city’s problems. “A part of the artistic world tends to run to wherever they can locate pain and woe,” Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, a consultant at the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, recently commented on the sudden surge of interest in Greece. Reactivate Athens was a project that took place in a vacant shopfront in central Athens between late November 2013 and March 2014. It originated with Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) co-founder Alfredo Brillembourg, who partnered with the Onassis Foundation to realise the project – to create 101 ideas that could be deployed, not only in Athens, but in other crisis-struck cities across the globe. The results are collected in a 464-page book, a quarter of which is dedicated to introductory essays; the rest to photographs of Athens and the presentation of the 101 ideas. On the back cover of Reactivate Athens, the

Design Museum curator and sometime U-TT collaborator Justin McGuirk praises the project: “not letting the crisis goes to waste, this book finds Athens to be fertile ground”. In a 2016 interview with Damn magazine, U-TT founder Alfredo Brillembourg explains the appeal of Athens in his own words: “We decided to do a project in Europe and[…] Athens was by far the most interesting city, as of course it was already in crisis.” Whether intentionally or not, before the spine has been creased, Reactivate Athens sets itself up as a project that seeks to benefit from the woes of others. Bottom-up urban and social strategies for dealing with the fallout of the crisis in Athens have interested me since 2014. Three years is not a long time and, prior to this sudden interest, I never had any meaningful engagement with the city. In the summer of 2015, however, I spent a week there researching a piece on the subject. I met with Athenians, newcomers, even visitors, to talk about how to live when many government services were being eroded – even failing altogether – all at a time when media attention alternated between intense coverage and total absence of interest. I encountered activists working to ensure that state utilities didn’t become illegally privatised; co-op-run grocer’s shops helping to keep rural farmers in business; unemployed Greeks organising soup kitchens; even groups who published lists of initiatives to give the press something else to write about when many stories placed blame on the shoulders of the supposedly lazy, irresponsible Greeks. In some ways, I too was a wolf, although I sought to be a responsible one.

162

Reactivate Athens took place more than three years ago, so it’s interesting that the book is being published in 2017. Perhaps it’s simply the case that, as with many publishing projects, delays were inevitable. Whatever the reason, the effect is that publication has coincided with Documenta, one of the largest contemporary art events in the world. Typically held every five years in Kassel, Germany, for the first time since its founding in 1955, the 2017 edition is also taking place in Athens. Since opening in April, Documenta 14 has been widely criticised in the art press as a parasitic event with neo-colonial overtones; German cultural imperialism taking advantage of the interest in crisis-struck Athens for its own benefit. “Once the European troika has finished plundering infrastructure and resources in Greece, crisis-as-capital will perhaps be the only remaining ‘resource’ from an outside perspective,” suggested writer and curator Iliana Fokianaki in Apollo. “Of course, Greeks don’t see much return for this value.” In the book, Hubert Klumpner and Alfredo Brillembourg’s introductory essay – ‘Athens is Burning’ – sets out their vision for engaging with Athens. Does a city in crisis produce a certain kind of knowledge, they ask? “Against a backdrop of prolonged unrest and uncertainty, how can the public participate in processes of urban and social change?” Two interesting questions. However, rather than expand, the pair set out on a dérive, taking in the city’s “unmistakable decline” while attempting to identify its hidden potential. They start at the main railway

All photographs courtesy of Urban-Think Tank.

They make a tremendous fuss / about everything, these Reformers[…] / they find an endless number of useless things to eliminate[…] / And when, all being well, they finish the job,[…] / it will be a miracle if anything’s left at all.

Reactivate Athens is a book by Urban-Think Tank that grew out of a 2013-14 project aimed at finding ideas to aid the recovery of crisis-hit cities.

Review


Reactivate Athens by Urban-Think Tank Words Crystal Bennes

These lines from revered 20th-century Greek poet, C.P. Cavafy, were written, not five years ago as the troika arrived in Greece demanding the large-scale sell-off of state assets, but in 1928 amid another period of economic turmoil. Crisis has always brought the wolves to the gates. In modern Greece, these wolves have been not only the European Commission, European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and speculators, but also cultural institutions and other creative professionals. The last five years have seen Rethink Athens, unMonastery, IdeasCity Athens, as well as Documenta and Reactivate Athens – all projects in which, to varying degrees, external actors have sought to generate strategies for how to solve or best represent the city’s problems. “A part of the artistic world tends to run to wherever they can locate pain and woe,” Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, a consultant at the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, recently commented on the sudden surge of interest in Greece. Reactivate Athens was a project that took place in a vacant shopfront in central Athens between late November 2013 and March 2014. It originated with Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) co-founder Alfredo Brillembourg, who partnered with the Onassis Foundation to realise the project – to create 101 ideas that could be deployed, not only in Athens, but in other crisis-struck cities across the globe. The results are collected in a 464-page book, a quarter of which is dedicated to introductory essays; the rest to photographs of Athens and the presentation of the 101 ideas. On the back cover of Reactivate Athens, the

Design Museum curator and sometime U-TT collaborator Justin McGuirk praises the project: “not letting the crisis goes to waste, this book finds Athens to be fertile ground”. In a 2016 interview with Damn magazine, U-TT founder Alfredo Brillembourg explains the appeal of Athens in his own words: “We decided to do a project in Europe and[…] Athens was by far the most interesting city, as of course it was already in crisis.” Whether intentionally or not, before the spine has been creased, Reactivate Athens sets itself up as a project that seeks to benefit from the woes of others. Bottom-up urban and social strategies for dealing with the fallout of the crisis in Athens have interested me since 2014. Three years is not a long time and, prior to this sudden interest, I never had any meaningful engagement with the city. In the summer of 2015, however, I spent a week there researching a piece on the subject. I met with Athenians, newcomers, even visitors, to talk about how to live when many government services were being eroded – even failing altogether – all at a time when media attention alternated between intense coverage and total absence of interest. I encountered activists working to ensure that state utilities didn’t become illegally privatised; co-op-run grocer’s shops helping to keep rural farmers in business; unemployed Greeks organising soup kitchens; even groups who published lists of initiatives to give the press something else to write about when many stories placed blame on the shoulders of the supposedly lazy, irresponsible Greeks. In some ways, I too was a wolf, although I sought to be a responsible one.

162

Reactivate Athens took place more than three years ago, so it’s interesting that the book is being published in 2017. Perhaps it’s simply the case that, as with many publishing projects, delays were inevitable. Whatever the reason, the effect is that publication has coincided with Documenta, one of the largest contemporary art events in the world. Typically held every five years in Kassel, Germany, for the first time since its founding in 1955, the 2017 edition is also taking place in Athens. Since opening in April, Documenta 14 has been widely criticised in the art press as a parasitic event with neo-colonial overtones; German cultural imperialism taking advantage of the interest in crisis-struck Athens for its own benefit. “Once the European troika has finished plundering infrastructure and resources in Greece, crisis-as-capital will perhaps be the only remaining ‘resource’ from an outside perspective,” suggested writer and curator Iliana Fokianaki in Apollo. “Of course, Greeks don’t see much return for this value.” In the book, Hubert Klumpner and Alfredo Brillembourg’s introductory essay – ‘Athens is Burning’ – sets out their vision for engaging with Athens. Does a city in crisis produce a certain kind of knowledge, they ask? “Against a backdrop of prolonged unrest and uncertainty, how can the public participate in processes of urban and social change?” Two interesting questions. However, rather than expand, the pair set out on a dérive, taking in the city’s “unmistakable decline” while attempting to identify its hidden potential. They start at the main railway

All photographs courtesy of Urban-Think Tank.

They make a tremendous fuss / about everything, these Reformers[…] / they find an endless number of useless things to eliminate[…] / And when, all being well, they finish the job,[…] / it will be a miracle if anything’s left at all.

Reactivate Athens is a book by Urban-Think Tank that grew out of a 2013-14 project aimed at finding ideas to aid the recovery of crisis-hit cities.

Review


Reactivate Athens is intended as a distillation of

The book follows on from Urban-Think Tank’s

3,472 ideas for the city sourced from Athenians

previous work in Caracas, Venezuela.

through an online survey.

station and imagine it transformed; better integrated into its surrounding area, but also as “a place to which people will be drawn from near and far just for the shared experience”. Their next stop is an abandoned lot near Omonia Square, an area that “appears to be in decline[…] [– an] overt presence of drug use and prostitution enhances these perceptions”. This is confusingly followed by mention of the square’s role as a commercial hub and its cultural reinvigoration thanks to the close proximity of the renovated National Theatre of Greece. However, no sense is given of the historical and cultural context of Omonia – no indication that this square has symbolic importance (among other things, Omonia is the true centre of Athens, the point from which all distances between it and other Greek conurbations are measured). In their vacant lot, the pair propose an outdoor theatre and cinema as an acupunctural project to provide “a high-value, catalytic public space”. It’s not necessarily a bad idea, but in a city that already has a rich and longstanding tradition of open-air cinemas in roof gardens, car parks and parks, why present the concept as totally disconnected from this tradition? When a dérive is a walk taken by men with little apparent knowledge or understanding of the context of the spaces and places they’re re-imagining, it becomes a superficial, almost purely aesthetic act, rather than a process of meaningful political engagement. Brillembourg and Klumpner present Reactivate Athens as bringing “fresh models of thought and practice [to the

city]” and “a radical reorientation of thinking”. According to them, the book is a project “to ensure that a humane new expression of civic space prevails in Athens”. The choice of words such as “fresh” and “new” – not to mention the prefix “re” in “reorientation” and, crucially, “reactivate” – is problematic. It suggests a writing-over of the voices of the people and communities who live and work here presented as a platform for “strengthened civic agency”. Reactivate Athens announced that it collected 3,472 ideas from Athenians through online surveys, but in the introductory essay, there’s little trace of their voices, except as anonymous victims – of urban decline, drug use and prostitution, even their own ignorance in favouring the car over public transport. Have we forgotten that the language of decay and decline is often the first stage of justification in profitdriven gentrification? There’s little appreciation of the fact that Athenians not only have their own agency, but that they have long been exercising it in ingenious, productive ways. Remarkably, somewhere between December 2013 and the publication of this book, Brillembourg’s view of Athens underwent a meteorological, metaphorical shift. At the project’s launch event in December 2013, Brillembourg introduced Reactivate Athens thus: “Athens is a city living in a long winter[…] which has frozen all the potential of this city.” Unsurprisingly, such comments were coolly received by many. Writing in January 2014 on Koino

164

Athina, a collective platform for research and action in the city of Athens, architect Eleni Tzirtzilaki called out Brillembourg’s description of the city as the result of a lack of interest in “learning [about] the present oases created by city-dwellers who work, often unpaid, because they love their city and recognise and fight for its potential”. Instead, she claimed, the problem lay not with Athenians, those “who have imagined another city which we are now seeking to create,” but with obstacles on a policy or planning level, “those who believe that a city should be constructed top-down”. Tzirtzilaki positions Brillembourg not as facilitator, but as part of this machine of top-down planning – “an architect of globalisation who views Caracas, Amman, Cape Town [all the same way]”. Similarly, Ares Kalandides, founder of Berlin-based company Inpolis, and Maria Papadimitriou, an artist and professor at the Architecture School of the University of Thessaly, who both participated in Reactivate Athens, wrote a measured, yet critical op-ed in the main left-wing paper, Avgi, in February 2014, echoing Tzirtzilaki. In a different context, Reactivate Athens would be less fraught, they wrote, but given the constant weakening of institutional power, a project like this (which felt, they said, at times like a campaign exercise for mayor Giorgos Kaminis) must be extremely well balanced. The pair repeated Tzirtzilaki’s comments that “neither ideas nor designs for Athens are lacking, nor an interest in the city’s future”. Rather, they wrote, what’s

missing are “appropriate institutions to implement” ideas, but above all, “the political will for implementation”. Kalandides and Papadimitriou also expressed serious reservations at the project’s presentation, particularly “the casualness with which ideas are expressed about Athens, as well as the systematic indifference to the knowledge or suggestions which have been and continue to be produced by serious scholars on the ground”. Others, however, welcomed U-TT and Reactivate Athens, seeing the project as a way to connect the many fragmented strands of individual actions in the city through Brillembourg’s charismatic leadership. Martha Giannakopoulou, one of the trio of initiators of Traces of Commerce, a project to bring city-centre commercial arcades back into use, wrote approvingly in January 2014 that the project marked “the first time that a participatory planning process had been carried out on this scale in Greece”. In the essays following Brillembourg and Klumpner’s introductory stroll, co-editors and U-TT team members Alexis Kalagas and Katerina Kourkoula look at Athens through the lens of previous crises in 1923 and the period following the Second World War to argue that the strengthening of collective, rather than purely individual, agency is needed in a city where past crises encouraged a sense of ownership of private rather than public spaces. But even Kalagas and Kourkoula present Athenians as lacking in their inability to channel their “energy and imagination into a new spatial approach”. Thomas Maloutas, professor of human geography at Harokopio University in Athens, provides an overview of social relations and the competing interests that are acting to re-shape the city centre, looking at the flight of mostly affluent Athenians beginning in the 1970s and subsequent displacement of state agencies to the periphery. In ‘Policy and Governance Tools for Change’, architect Maria Kaltsa calls on the government to formulate innovative policies and strategies, targeted incentives, and a new regulatory landscape to support social economies. Kaltsa outlines one of Reactivate Athens’ more meaningful ideas, developed in collaboration with a team from the University of Thessaly, in which the City of Athens would use EU

funds to rent vacant apartments as social housing. In exchange, tenants would be required, for example, to assist elderly individuals living in the same building or else nearby. As for the 101 ideas, only 50 are fleshed out. These – separated into categories of housing and vacancy, economy, immigration, health and safety, mobility, poverty and vulnerability, and culture and identity – are each accompanied by a photograph, a drawing and around 150 words of text. Ideas 51–101 are allocated only one sentence each in five pages at the back of the book. Fascinatingly, a selection of 600 ideas collected from members of the public as part of the Reactivate Athens surveys are listed in an appendix. Comparing the differences between the U-TT ideas – for example, idea 4, Plug in-plug on, a kit of parts intended to allow temporary use of unfinished

Reactivate Athens announced that it collected 3,472 ideas from Athenians, but there’s little trace of their voices, except as anonymous victims. buildings; idea 30, Vertical gym (deployed previously by U-TT in Chacao, Caracas); idea 48, Crowdsourced city, an already-defunct app designed to open-source map and log ideas for the reactivation of the city centre – and the ideas submitted by the public is revealing. Unsurprisingly, the latter displays more interest in considerations such as economic incentives to bring businesses and residential use back to the city centre, garbage collection, lighting, improved parking provisions and extended metro hours. What stands out is the lack of connection between proposed ideas and pre-existing initiatives. Of the 50 proposals, only seven are credited as “seen in Athens”, even though a number of the ideas – such as Mobile social kitchen and Social occupancy – have numerous extant local examples. There’s O Allos Anthropos, for example, a group of unemployed Greeks who operate a mobile soup kitchen in the city centre; or Options FoodLab, a kitchen and food-training space founded to connect locals, immigrants and refugees. There’s

Review

City Plaza, the latest in a long line of Athenian refugee housing projects, which opened last year in a hotel that had been empty for seven years a few blocks from the main railway station and operates entirely without NGO or government support. For almost every of the first 50 proposals, I could list at least one similar project in Athens. This isn’t to say that one can’t and shouldn’t learn from what’s happening elsewhere and deploy similar strategies in Athens or other crisis-hit cities. But why not adopt a position of learning from Athens, rather than imposing ideas on it from outside, insisting that its individual initiatives are ineffectual and that public-policy change must be the ultimate goal. The latter point seems particularly ill-considered in a city where local and state-level policies are often demonstrably hostile to its citizens’ concerns. Since their early days in Caracas, U-TT have built a reputation for carrying out important work, drawing attention to slum conditions in Venezuela and elsewhere. But their project in Caracas is different to this one in Athens, and perhaps the Documenta parallel is telling. When you successfully build something – an art festival or a model of working – people take notice. Sometimes people ask you to bring your model elsewhere and sometimes you decide of your own volition to take that model to new places. But Athens is not the same as the slums of Caracas. And although Reactivate Athens makes the point that its 101 ideas are not exclusively context-specific and could, by extension, be equally well applied to cities all over the world, the people who live in the city named on this book’s cover are specific to their context. If U-TT want to publish contextfree ideas that could be deployed in slums or crisis-struck cities across the world, then they should do that. But, if they derive their ideas from or link their ideas to a specific place, they have a real responsibility to that place and to the people who live there. And that requires much more care than producing a mere survey collection. Reactivate Athens, ed. Alfredo Brillembourg, Hubert Klumpner, Alexis Kalagas and Katerina Kourkoula, is published by Ruby Press (RPP €42).


Reactivate Athens is intended as a distillation of

The book follows on from Urban-Think Tank’s

3,472 ideas for the city sourced from Athenians

previous work in Caracas, Venezuela.

through an online survey.

station and imagine it transformed; better integrated into its surrounding area, but also as “a place to which people will be drawn from near and far just for the shared experience”. Their next stop is an abandoned lot near Omonia Square, an area that “appears to be in decline[…] [– an] overt presence of drug use and prostitution enhances these perceptions”. This is confusingly followed by mention of the square’s role as a commercial hub and its cultural reinvigoration thanks to the close proximity of the renovated National Theatre of Greece. However, no sense is given of the historical and cultural context of Omonia – no indication that this square has symbolic importance (among other things, Omonia is the true centre of Athens, the point from which all distances between it and other Greek conurbations are measured). In their vacant lot, the pair propose an outdoor theatre and cinema as an acupunctural project to provide “a high-value, catalytic public space”. It’s not necessarily a bad idea, but in a city that already has a rich and longstanding tradition of open-air cinemas in roof gardens, car parks and parks, why present the concept as totally disconnected from this tradition? When a dérive is a walk taken by men with little apparent knowledge or understanding of the context of the spaces and places they’re re-imagining, it becomes a superficial, almost purely aesthetic act, rather than a process of meaningful political engagement. Brillembourg and Klumpner present Reactivate Athens as bringing “fresh models of thought and practice [to the

city]” and “a radical reorientation of thinking”. According to them, the book is a project “to ensure that a humane new expression of civic space prevails in Athens”. The choice of words such as “fresh” and “new” – not to mention the prefix “re” in “reorientation” and, crucially, “reactivate” – is problematic. It suggests a writing-over of the voices of the people and communities who live and work here presented as a platform for “strengthened civic agency”. Reactivate Athens announced that it collected 3,472 ideas from Athenians through online surveys, but in the introductory essay, there’s little trace of their voices, except as anonymous victims – of urban decline, drug use and prostitution, even their own ignorance in favouring the car over public transport. Have we forgotten that the language of decay and decline is often the first stage of justification in profitdriven gentrification? There’s little appreciation of the fact that Athenians not only have their own agency, but that they have long been exercising it in ingenious, productive ways. Remarkably, somewhere between December 2013 and the publication of this book, Brillembourg’s view of Athens underwent a meteorological, metaphorical shift. At the project’s launch event in December 2013, Brillembourg introduced Reactivate Athens thus: “Athens is a city living in a long winter[…] which has frozen all the potential of this city.” Unsurprisingly, such comments were coolly received by many. Writing in January 2014 on Koino

164

Athina, a collective platform for research and action in the city of Athens, architect Eleni Tzirtzilaki called out Brillembourg’s description of the city as the result of a lack of interest in “learning [about] the present oases created by city-dwellers who work, often unpaid, because they love their city and recognise and fight for its potential”. Instead, she claimed, the problem lay not with Athenians, those “who have imagined another city which we are now seeking to create,” but with obstacles on a policy or planning level, “those who believe that a city should be constructed top-down”. Tzirtzilaki positions Brillembourg not as facilitator, but as part of this machine of top-down planning – “an architect of globalisation who views Caracas, Amman, Cape Town [all the same way]”. Similarly, Ares Kalandides, founder of Berlin-based company Inpolis, and Maria Papadimitriou, an artist and professor at the Architecture School of the University of Thessaly, who both participated in Reactivate Athens, wrote a measured, yet critical op-ed in the main left-wing paper, Avgi, in February 2014, echoing Tzirtzilaki. In a different context, Reactivate Athens would be less fraught, they wrote, but given the constant weakening of institutional power, a project like this (which felt, they said, at times like a campaign exercise for mayor Giorgos Kaminis) must be extremely well balanced. The pair repeated Tzirtzilaki’s comments that “neither ideas nor designs for Athens are lacking, nor an interest in the city’s future”. Rather, they wrote, what’s

missing are “appropriate institutions to implement” ideas, but above all, “the political will for implementation”. Kalandides and Papadimitriou also expressed serious reservations at the project’s presentation, particularly “the casualness with which ideas are expressed about Athens, as well as the systematic indifference to the knowledge or suggestions which have been and continue to be produced by serious scholars on the ground”. Others, however, welcomed U-TT and Reactivate Athens, seeing the project as a way to connect the many fragmented strands of individual actions in the city through Brillembourg’s charismatic leadership. Martha Giannakopoulou, one of the trio of initiators of Traces of Commerce, a project to bring city-centre commercial arcades back into use, wrote approvingly in January 2014 that the project marked “the first time that a participatory planning process had been carried out on this scale in Greece”. In the essays following Brillembourg and Klumpner’s introductory stroll, co-editors and U-TT team members Alexis Kalagas and Katerina Kourkoula look at Athens through the lens of previous crises in 1923 and the period following the Second World War to argue that the strengthening of collective, rather than purely individual, agency is needed in a city where past crises encouraged a sense of ownership of private rather than public spaces. But even Kalagas and Kourkoula present Athenians as lacking in their inability to channel their “energy and imagination into a new spatial approach”. Thomas Maloutas, professor of human geography at Harokopio University in Athens, provides an overview of social relations and the competing interests that are acting to re-shape the city centre, looking at the flight of mostly affluent Athenians beginning in the 1970s and subsequent displacement of state agencies to the periphery. In ‘Policy and Governance Tools for Change’, architect Maria Kaltsa calls on the government to formulate innovative policies and strategies, targeted incentives, and a new regulatory landscape to support social economies. Kaltsa outlines one of Reactivate Athens’ more meaningful ideas, developed in collaboration with a team from the University of Thessaly, in which the City of Athens would use EU

funds to rent vacant apartments as social housing. In exchange, tenants would be required, for example, to assist elderly individuals living in the same building or else nearby. As for the 101 ideas, only 50 are fleshed out. These – separated into categories of housing and vacancy, economy, immigration, health and safety, mobility, poverty and vulnerability, and culture and identity – are each accompanied by a photograph, a drawing and around 150 words of text. Ideas 51–101 are allocated only one sentence each in five pages at the back of the book. Fascinatingly, a selection of 600 ideas collected from members of the public as part of the Reactivate Athens surveys are listed in an appendix. Comparing the differences between the U-TT ideas – for example, idea 4, Plug in-plug on, a kit of parts intended to allow temporary use of unfinished

Reactivate Athens announced that it collected 3,472 ideas from Athenians, but there’s little trace of their voices, except as anonymous victims. buildings; idea 30, Vertical gym (deployed previously by U-TT in Chacao, Caracas); idea 48, Crowdsourced city, an already-defunct app designed to open-source map and log ideas for the reactivation of the city centre – and the ideas submitted by the public is revealing. Unsurprisingly, the latter displays more interest in considerations such as economic incentives to bring businesses and residential use back to the city centre, garbage collection, lighting, improved parking provisions and extended metro hours. What stands out is the lack of connection between proposed ideas and pre-existing initiatives. Of the 50 proposals, only seven are credited as “seen in Athens”, even though a number of the ideas – such as Mobile social kitchen and Social occupancy – have numerous extant local examples. There’s O Allos Anthropos, for example, a group of unemployed Greeks who operate a mobile soup kitchen in the city centre; or Options FoodLab, a kitchen and food-training space founded to connect locals, immigrants and refugees. There’s

Review

City Plaza, the latest in a long line of Athenian refugee housing projects, which opened last year in a hotel that had been empty for seven years a few blocks from the main railway station and operates entirely without NGO or government support. For almost every of the first 50 proposals, I could list at least one similar project in Athens. This isn’t to say that one can’t and shouldn’t learn from what’s happening elsewhere and deploy similar strategies in Athens or other crisis-hit cities. But why not adopt a position of learning from Athens, rather than imposing ideas on it from outside, insisting that its individual initiatives are ineffectual and that public-policy change must be the ultimate goal. The latter point seems particularly ill-considered in a city where local and state-level policies are often demonstrably hostile to its citizens’ concerns. Since their early days in Caracas, U-TT have built a reputation for carrying out important work, drawing attention to slum conditions in Venezuela and elsewhere. But their project in Caracas is different to this one in Athens, and perhaps the Documenta parallel is telling. When you successfully build something – an art festival or a model of working – people take notice. Sometimes people ask you to bring your model elsewhere and sometimes you decide of your own volition to take that model to new places. But Athens is not the same as the slums of Caracas. And although Reactivate Athens makes the point that its 101 ideas are not exclusively context-specific and could, by extension, be equally well applied to cities all over the world, the people who live in the city named on this book’s cover are specific to their context. If U-TT want to publish contextfree ideas that could be deployed in slums or crisis-struck cities across the world, then they should do that. But, if they derive their ideas from or link their ideas to a specific place, they have a real responsibility to that place and to the people who live there. And that requires much more care than producing a mere survey collection. Reactivate Athens, ed. Alfredo Brillembourg, Hubert Klumpner, Alexis Kalagas and Katerina Kourkoula, is published by Ruby Press (RPP €42).


Convergence by Ross Lovegrove at the Centre Pompidou Words Anna Yudina

A Ross Lovegrove retrospective seeks to move discussion of his design away from the aesthetics of parametricism, and onto the ideologies that underpin his personal brand of futurism. economy of materials, and the use of advanced technology[…] to reduce the object to a material minimum,” but also to minimise energy consumption. ‘Eco’ shows Lovegrove as a future-oriented designer of the post-industrial age whose work seeks to respond to environmental concerns, and reflects “a shift from a hard, clean, mechanical aesthetic” towards softer and more dynamic forms enabled by new technologies. Finally, the ‘Digital’ axis highlights the fact that Lovegrove pioneered the use of digital tools in design as early as in 1990 (the year when he founded his office Studio X in London), as well as his experiments in interpreting natural forms through digital technology. The Eye camera for Olympus (1990), Emma Office System for Herman Miller (1994-2000) and other projects developed at the time involve what Lovegrove desrcribes as “soft hybrid computational design” – although creating wire-frame models in 3D software, he recalls, was a long and complex process in the 1990s. The exhibition display juxtaposes his works with photographs of natural structures and textures, not to mention an elephant skull dating from 1888. In an interview I conducted with the designer in 2015, Lovegrove spoke about his desire to converge “everything he knows”. With a career that started in the early 1980s and continued through the advent and evolution of digital design and fabrication, this now amounts to a skill set extending from traditional crafts to digital tools and encompassing interests ranging from biology to anthropology to art. Today, Lovegrove continues to “absorb from other areas” in order to set himself new standards in “transforming

166

minimal material with minimal energy into what we need”. It is an approach that Lovegrove has adopted from natural processes, and one that leads him to remove inessential elements from his work in an attempt to condense sensory richness, emotional appeal, functionality and user comfort, such that even basic products could offer several levels of experience. Thus, the Disc Camera (1982-83), his master’s project from the Royal College of Art, later manufactured by Kodak, and the Eye digital camera (1990) for Olympus provide distinct formal expressions for the technical innovations of their time (respectively, the Kodak-developed disc-shaped photo film that allowed for thinner cameras, and the silicon-chip memory card that replaced analogue film). They also feel like natural extensions of the human hand. Lovegrove’s champagne bottle for Mumm Grand Cordon (2016), meanwhile, comes stripped of its paper label in favour of a solution that manages to blend ergonomics, aesthetics and marketing in one move. Mumm’s golden signature is printed directly onto the glass, and the brand’s red sash is indented into the bottle’s body, providing an intuitive and comfortable place to put your thumb when serving. Why glue paper on glass in an era of optimised, high-precision effort, if you can do without – and with greater impact? “Maybe a new profession of artistengineer-scientist will be born,” wrote the late Jan Kaplický, the radical mind behind architecture and design practice Future Systems, in his 2002 book Confessions. Kaplický shared Lovegrove’s interest in the workings of nature and organic forms, but also in technological advancement

The Cosmic Angel light for Artemide

The chair derives its distinctive shape from a

was developed between 2009 and 2011.

single-celled organism.

All photographs courtesy of the Centre Pompidou.

There is a glaring problem with Ross Lovegrove’s designs. The fluid biomorphic forms he develops are so irritatingly sleek that they tend to encourage a superficial reading. From a staircase with a structure that blends the human spine with the DNA spiral, through a collection of algorithmically designed lamps, to a model of a 3D-printed tower in carbon fibre-reinforced concrete, 100 examples of the Welsh designer’s work – sketches, sculptures, concept cars, installations, prototypes and commercial products – are on show in the Centre Pompidou’s all-glazed Galérie 3, giving visitors some three months to explore what Lovegrove’s oeuvre is actually about. Figuring this out, however, and moving beyond his sleek surfaces, requires forays into disciplines including biology, futures studies and neuroscience. Titled Convergence, the exhibition has been curated by Marie-Ange Brayer, the Centre Pompidou’s chief curator of design and industrial prospective, and is billed as the museum’s “first futureoriented retrospective”. Besides this, it marks the launch of the Pompidou’s new annual Mutations-Créations exhibition and event series, which is intended to explore “the emergent landscape shared by art, innovation and science”. It thus presents Lovegrove as one of the trailblazers of this process. Accompanied by a documentary that features the designer speaking about his work, the exhibition is organised along three main axes. ‘Organic Essentialism’ illustrates how Lovegrove’s observations of natural structures and processes translate into a quest for efficiency that combines, according to the exhibition’s commentary, “simplification of form,

Ross Lovegrove’s Diatom chair for Moroso (2014).

and its transformational influence on the world in general and design in particular. Seemingly developing Kaplický’s idea, Lovegrove has articulated, in his 2005 TED Talk and elsewhere, a concept of DNA, which he unzips as “Design, Nature, Art”. Ridon, for instance – one of a series of designs executed in carbon fibre between 2003 and 2007 – evokes a motorcycle fused with its rider. One of Lovegrove’s statement pieces, Ridon is intended as “a metaphor for the way we should design in the future” and it knowingly references the futurist sculptor Umberto Boccioni’s bronze cast Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913). Ridon embodies different levels of convergence – a “fusion of man and machine at full speed”, but also Lovegrove’s idea of art and design coming together in a single resolved form. The convergence of material, technology and form, as in Lovegrove’s Tŷ Nant water bottle (1999-2001), is – once again – Lovegrove’s DNA triad in action. Its irregular, wavy surface creates the odd impression of holding a chunk of water. Technologically speaking, it was the world’s first industrial product that relied on the methods pioneered by parametric architecture and, in search of new processes that would bring his idea of a “liquid” form to life, Lovegrove also collaborated with a specialist in facial scanning and surgical reconstruction. Ergonomically, he has shaped the bottle so that it can fit into hands of different sizes and grip strengths, although it is also an object that communicates with its owner on emotional and sensory levels, the transparent shell seeming

to disappear when filled. The container is intended to be “an icon of water itself”. There is yet another kind of convergence in Lovegrove’s work that reflects different paces of change, from the glacial speed of evolution to the constant flux inherent in nature. A sense of implicit movement is present in nearly all of his designs. The Liquid Shelves (2011) seem to be made from mercury and shaped by a tension between external and internal forces; the legs of the Megabioform table (2000) are “sucked” from its centre as if from a pool of liquid metal. Every detail of the concept cars for Swarovski (2005-06) and Renault (2012-13) heightens a sense of flow. The shape of the Ilabo shoe (2015), developed for the Dutch brand United Nude, originates from hair-like forms that roll around the foot under the action of gravity. The curved, rippled glass enclosure of the Lasvit LiquidKristal pavilion (2012) creates an immersive environment whose state – liquid or solid – seems to remain undecided. Meanwhile, the Corolised Chairs (2012) (of which no two look the same) use a production process that implies unpredictability in the way the original form, inspired by human anatomy, varies with each new 3D-printed chair. This multi-sensory awareness of an environment resonates with some of the findings in cognitive science about the complex interconnected mechanisms of human perception and the influence that our body has on the concepts we develop about the world. In the 2015 book Mind in Architecture: Neuroscience, Embodiment and the Future of Design,

Review

Vittorio Gallese – one of the scientists who discovered mirror neurons in the 1990s – and architect Alessandro Gattara share neuroscientific evidence of the relationship between the motor system, the body and the way we perceive space and objects. “We now know that the thoughts and feelings that populate our subjective reality are not abstractions belonging solely to us,” notes the architect Sarah Robinson, the book’s co-editor. “Rather, they are constantly forming patterns of experiential interaction emerging from our continual engagement with the environment.[…] In shaping matter, we shape experience – in shaping experience, we give form to life.” Robinson’s words sum up a once intuitive, and now empirically proven, understanding of the effects that designers’ and architects’ work can have on the people who use it. There is yet another facet to Lovegrove’s work that provides intense and novel sensory experiences, and which feeds into an emerging challenge: in times of exponential information density, how can we process, let alone make sense of, new and overwhelming levels of input? Artificial intelligence may be one part of the solution, but it is equally important to look to our own internal resources. Here, too, relying on intellect alone will not be enough. “Remember that your understanding comes through your body,” states the psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist writing in Mind in Architecture. “You experience the world intuitively through your senses more than you can ever know the world intellectually.” It’s an argument that calls


Convergence by Ross Lovegrove at the Centre Pompidou Words Anna Yudina

A Ross Lovegrove retrospective seeks to move discussion of his design away from the aesthetics of parametricism, and onto the ideologies that underpin his personal brand of futurism. economy of materials, and the use of advanced technology[…] to reduce the object to a material minimum,” but also to minimise energy consumption. ‘Eco’ shows Lovegrove as a future-oriented designer of the post-industrial age whose work seeks to respond to environmental concerns, and reflects “a shift from a hard, clean, mechanical aesthetic” towards softer and more dynamic forms enabled by new technologies. Finally, the ‘Digital’ axis highlights the fact that Lovegrove pioneered the use of digital tools in design as early as in 1990 (the year when he founded his office Studio X in London), as well as his experiments in interpreting natural forms through digital technology. The Eye camera for Olympus (1990), Emma Office System for Herman Miller (1994-2000) and other projects developed at the time involve what Lovegrove desrcribes as “soft hybrid computational design” – although creating wire-frame models in 3D software, he recalls, was a long and complex process in the 1990s. The exhibition display juxtaposes his works with photographs of natural structures and textures, not to mention an elephant skull dating from 1888. In an interview I conducted with the designer in 2015, Lovegrove spoke about his desire to converge “everything he knows”. With a career that started in the early 1980s and continued through the advent and evolution of digital design and fabrication, this now amounts to a skill set extending from traditional crafts to digital tools and encompassing interests ranging from biology to anthropology to art. Today, Lovegrove continues to “absorb from other areas” in order to set himself new standards in “transforming

166

minimal material with minimal energy into what we need”. It is an approach that Lovegrove has adopted from natural processes, and one that leads him to remove inessential elements from his work in an attempt to condense sensory richness, emotional appeal, functionality and user comfort, such that even basic products could offer several levels of experience. Thus, the Disc Camera (1982-83), his master’s project from the Royal College of Art, later manufactured by Kodak, and the Eye digital camera (1990) for Olympus provide distinct formal expressions for the technical innovations of their time (respectively, the Kodak-developed disc-shaped photo film that allowed for thinner cameras, and the silicon-chip memory card that replaced analogue film). They also feel like natural extensions of the human hand. Lovegrove’s champagne bottle for Mumm Grand Cordon (2016), meanwhile, comes stripped of its paper label in favour of a solution that manages to blend ergonomics, aesthetics and marketing in one move. Mumm’s golden signature is printed directly onto the glass, and the brand’s red sash is indented into the bottle’s body, providing an intuitive and comfortable place to put your thumb when serving. Why glue paper on glass in an era of optimised, high-precision effort, if you can do without – and with greater impact? “Maybe a new profession of artistengineer-scientist will be born,” wrote the late Jan Kaplický, the radical mind behind architecture and design practice Future Systems, in his 2002 book Confessions. Kaplický shared Lovegrove’s interest in the workings of nature and organic forms, but also in technological advancement

The Cosmic Angel light for Artemide

The chair derives its distinctive shape from a

was developed between 2009 and 2011.

single-celled organism.

All photographs courtesy of the Centre Pompidou.

There is a glaring problem with Ross Lovegrove’s designs. The fluid biomorphic forms he develops are so irritatingly sleek that they tend to encourage a superficial reading. From a staircase with a structure that blends the human spine with the DNA spiral, through a collection of algorithmically designed lamps, to a model of a 3D-printed tower in carbon fibre-reinforced concrete, 100 examples of the Welsh designer’s work – sketches, sculptures, concept cars, installations, prototypes and commercial products – are on show in the Centre Pompidou’s all-glazed Galérie 3, giving visitors some three months to explore what Lovegrove’s oeuvre is actually about. Figuring this out, however, and moving beyond his sleek surfaces, requires forays into disciplines including biology, futures studies and neuroscience. Titled Convergence, the exhibition has been curated by Marie-Ange Brayer, the Centre Pompidou’s chief curator of design and industrial prospective, and is billed as the museum’s “first futureoriented retrospective”. Besides this, it marks the launch of the Pompidou’s new annual Mutations-Créations exhibition and event series, which is intended to explore “the emergent landscape shared by art, innovation and science”. It thus presents Lovegrove as one of the trailblazers of this process. Accompanied by a documentary that features the designer speaking about his work, the exhibition is organised along three main axes. ‘Organic Essentialism’ illustrates how Lovegrove’s observations of natural structures and processes translate into a quest for efficiency that combines, according to the exhibition’s commentary, “simplification of form,

Ross Lovegrove’s Diatom chair for Moroso (2014).

and its transformational influence on the world in general and design in particular. Seemingly developing Kaplický’s idea, Lovegrove has articulated, in his 2005 TED Talk and elsewhere, a concept of DNA, which he unzips as “Design, Nature, Art”. Ridon, for instance – one of a series of designs executed in carbon fibre between 2003 and 2007 – evokes a motorcycle fused with its rider. One of Lovegrove’s statement pieces, Ridon is intended as “a metaphor for the way we should design in the future” and it knowingly references the futurist sculptor Umberto Boccioni’s bronze cast Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913). Ridon embodies different levels of convergence – a “fusion of man and machine at full speed”, but also Lovegrove’s idea of art and design coming together in a single resolved form. The convergence of material, technology and form, as in Lovegrove’s Tŷ Nant water bottle (1999-2001), is – once again – Lovegrove’s DNA triad in action. Its irregular, wavy surface creates the odd impression of holding a chunk of water. Technologically speaking, it was the world’s first industrial product that relied on the methods pioneered by parametric architecture and, in search of new processes that would bring his idea of a “liquid” form to life, Lovegrove also collaborated with a specialist in facial scanning and surgical reconstruction. Ergonomically, he has shaped the bottle so that it can fit into hands of different sizes and grip strengths, although it is also an object that communicates with its owner on emotional and sensory levels, the transparent shell seeming

to disappear when filled. The container is intended to be “an icon of water itself”. There is yet another kind of convergence in Lovegrove’s work that reflects different paces of change, from the glacial speed of evolution to the constant flux inherent in nature. A sense of implicit movement is present in nearly all of his designs. The Liquid Shelves (2011) seem to be made from mercury and shaped by a tension between external and internal forces; the legs of the Megabioform table (2000) are “sucked” from its centre as if from a pool of liquid metal. Every detail of the concept cars for Swarovski (2005-06) and Renault (2012-13) heightens a sense of flow. The shape of the Ilabo shoe (2015), developed for the Dutch brand United Nude, originates from hair-like forms that roll around the foot under the action of gravity. The curved, rippled glass enclosure of the Lasvit LiquidKristal pavilion (2012) creates an immersive environment whose state – liquid or solid – seems to remain undecided. Meanwhile, the Corolised Chairs (2012) (of which no two look the same) use a production process that implies unpredictability in the way the original form, inspired by human anatomy, varies with each new 3D-printed chair. This multi-sensory awareness of an environment resonates with some of the findings in cognitive science about the complex interconnected mechanisms of human perception and the influence that our body has on the concepts we develop about the world. In the 2015 book Mind in Architecture: Neuroscience, Embodiment and the Future of Design,

Review

Vittorio Gallese – one of the scientists who discovered mirror neurons in the 1990s – and architect Alessandro Gattara share neuroscientific evidence of the relationship between the motor system, the body and the way we perceive space and objects. “We now know that the thoughts and feelings that populate our subjective reality are not abstractions belonging solely to us,” notes the architect Sarah Robinson, the book’s co-editor. “Rather, they are constantly forming patterns of experiential interaction emerging from our continual engagement with the environment.[…] In shaping matter, we shape experience – in shaping experience, we give form to life.” Robinson’s words sum up a once intuitive, and now empirically proven, understanding of the effects that designers’ and architects’ work can have on the people who use it. There is yet another facet to Lovegrove’s work that provides intense and novel sensory experiences, and which feeds into an emerging challenge: in times of exponential information density, how can we process, let alone make sense of, new and overwhelming levels of input? Artificial intelligence may be one part of the solution, but it is equally important to look to our own internal resources. Here, too, relying on intellect alone will not be enough. “Remember that your understanding comes through your body,” states the psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist writing in Mind in Architecture. “You experience the world intuitively through your senses more than you can ever know the world intellectually.” It’s an argument that calls


Lovegrove’s 3D-printed Ilabo shoes for United Nude (top) were designed in 2015; the Gingko Carbon Table was produced in carbon fiber (2007-2008) as part of an edition of 12.

168

for the expansion and sharpening of our intuition and sensory capacities – the multi-modal systems that enable more immediate and more efficient ways of grasping the world. It is what the architecture theorist Juhani Pallasmaa summed up as “the potential of the human body as a knowing entity” in his 2009 book The Thinking Hand. Lovegrove, whose work draws on the ability of design to appeal directly to our senses, seems to see the ideas expounded by writers such as McGilchrist and Pallasmaa as key to any conception of future design practice. “When our ancestors lived in caves, they developed a heightened sense of awareness in order to survive,” he says. “There was this incredible moment in our evolution where our senses were very alive and the way we interacted with space was different. We haven’t lost these primordial instinctive feelings; beneath the high-tech urban society and the digital age we are immersing ourselves in, I am looking to touch people deeply with the objects I create.” Lovegrove calls himself a sculptor of technology: someone who wraps technology around humans and imagines “how it might feel to be a headphone in your ear, or an aircraft seat that hugs you so you feel cocooned and protected”. Although his design repertoire is vast, he has a number of preferred typologies – a bicycle, a car, a bottle, a watch. With portable, moving and wearable items, the fusion between human and object feels intuitive. Here, the experiential aspect of Lovegrove’s design can manifest most strongly because of the close physical contact that such objects imply: we wear them, are nestled inside of them, or wrap our hands around them. Active sensory engagement is a vital condition of Lovegrove’s design approach, which can be field-tested on two large-scale installations shown at the exhibition: the Lasvit pavilion, which visitors to the Pompidou are invited to enter, and the Barrisol Cocoon (2016-17), a giant structure with three openings through which one can glimpse a biomorphic form housed inside to serve as a projection surface for digital animation. While the Lasvit pavilion stands as an immersive environment that affects your interaction with both interior and exterior space, the Cocoon puts you in the position of a

passive viewer. This experience finds a parallel in Pallasmaa’s notion of the importance of peripheral vision in creating architecture. “When we see something in focus,” says Pallasmaa, “we automatically become outsiders to what we see.” It is through unfocused, peripheral vision that we are able to perceive ourselves as actually being inside of our surroundings. Lovegrove strives to create “liquid experiences that engage all the senses”, like his Muon speakers (2005-7), which were intended “to associate space and sound”. The large size and reflective surface of these column-like objects, executed in mirror-polished aluminium, give them an architectural presence, while their sinuous shape blends aesthetics and sound engineering. The speakers were purposefully sculpted to provide a unique frequency-response curve, certified to reach beyond the normal spectrum and thus affect the listener on more than just the auditory level. Indeed, Lovegrove’s wider design practice might be understood as a way of blending the natural and organic with computational intelligence to create a new digital nature: a world populated by objects that feel as if they have been grown specifically for you. He seeks to achieve self-explanatory forms by capturing through design what he sees as moments of perfect balance in the midst of continuous change. All of this explains what Lovegrove the designer says he does, but in the context of a retrospective exhibition, another question would perhaps be more meaningful: what do the things he does do to us? At the turn of the century, Kaplický was convinced that in response to the need for a new reality, architecture should begin to acquire “a new meaning”. He made an analogy with space research, an industry that was only a few decades old, but which had brought, along with new goals and new technologies, “a new sense of how to serve people, a new sense of future and almost automatically new aesthetics – even new beauty”. Today, discussions of the internet of things, neuromorphic chips, quantum computers and other revolutionary developments are common across fields. Yet the effect of such technologies on our lives remains difficult to predict, given that we still have little comprehension

Review

of what they are actually capable of. “Over the past 25 years, we’ve struggled to keep up with the pace of change,” notes the writer Greg Satell in his book Mapping Innovation (2017). “But over the next few decades, we will struggle to even understand the nature of change as fundamentally new technologies begin to influence the way we work, live, and strive to innovate.” “What man thinks often becomes reality,” says Lovegrove in explanation of his practice. “It’s only a matter of time. Cars will fly because it has been set in our minds since Fritz Lang’s movies.” So maybe, the most important thing that multidisciplinarians like Lovegrove are doing for us – and to us – is “bending our minds to new perceptions”. They are training us for the future to come. Convergence runs at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, until 3 July 2017.


Lovegrove’s 3D-printed Ilabo shoes for United Nude (top) were designed in 2015; the Gingko Carbon Table was produced in carbon fiber (2007-2008) as part of an edition of 12.

168

for the expansion and sharpening of our intuition and sensory capacities – the multi-modal systems that enable more immediate and more efficient ways of grasping the world. It is what the architecture theorist Juhani Pallasmaa summed up as “the potential of the human body as a knowing entity” in his 2009 book The Thinking Hand. Lovegrove, whose work draws on the ability of design to appeal directly to our senses, seems to see the ideas expounded by writers such as McGilchrist and Pallasmaa as key to any conception of future design practice. “When our ancestors lived in caves, they developed a heightened sense of awareness in order to survive,” he says. “There was this incredible moment in our evolution where our senses were very alive and the way we interacted with space was different. We haven’t lost these primordial instinctive feelings; beneath the high-tech urban society and the digital age we are immersing ourselves in, I am looking to touch people deeply with the objects I create.” Lovegrove calls himself a sculptor of technology: someone who wraps technology around humans and imagines “how it might feel to be a headphone in your ear, or an aircraft seat that hugs you so you feel cocooned and protected”. Although his design repertoire is vast, he has a number of preferred typologies – a bicycle, a car, a bottle, a watch. With portable, moving and wearable items, the fusion between human and object feels intuitive. Here, the experiential aspect of Lovegrove’s design can manifest most strongly because of the close physical contact that such objects imply: we wear them, are nestled inside of them, or wrap our hands around them. Active sensory engagement is a vital condition of Lovegrove’s design approach, which can be field-tested on two large-scale installations shown at the exhibition: the Lasvit pavilion, which visitors to the Pompidou are invited to enter, and the Barrisol Cocoon (2016-17), a giant structure with three openings through which one can glimpse a biomorphic form housed inside to serve as a projection surface for digital animation. While the Lasvit pavilion stands as an immersive environment that affects your interaction with both interior and exterior space, the Cocoon puts you in the position of a

passive viewer. This experience finds a parallel in Pallasmaa’s notion of the importance of peripheral vision in creating architecture. “When we see something in focus,” says Pallasmaa, “we automatically become outsiders to what we see.” It is through unfocused, peripheral vision that we are able to perceive ourselves as actually being inside of our surroundings. Lovegrove strives to create “liquid experiences that engage all the senses”, like his Muon speakers (2005-7), which were intended “to associate space and sound”. The large size and reflective surface of these column-like objects, executed in mirror-polished aluminium, give them an architectural presence, while their sinuous shape blends aesthetics and sound engineering. The speakers were purposefully sculpted to provide a unique frequency-response curve, certified to reach beyond the normal spectrum and thus affect the listener on more than just the auditory level. Indeed, Lovegrove’s wider design practice might be understood as a way of blending the natural and organic with computational intelligence to create a new digital nature: a world populated by objects that feel as if they have been grown specifically for you. He seeks to achieve self-explanatory forms by capturing through design what he sees as moments of perfect balance in the midst of continuous change. All of this explains what Lovegrove the designer says he does, but in the context of a retrospective exhibition, another question would perhaps be more meaningful: what do the things he does do to us? At the turn of the century, Kaplický was convinced that in response to the need for a new reality, architecture should begin to acquire “a new meaning”. He made an analogy with space research, an industry that was only a few decades old, but which had brought, along with new goals and new technologies, “a new sense of how to serve people, a new sense of future and almost automatically new aesthetics – even new beauty”. Today, discussions of the internet of things, neuromorphic chips, quantum computers and other revolutionary developments are common across fields. Yet the effect of such technologies on our lives remains difficult to predict, given that we still have little comprehension

Review

of what they are actually capable of. “Over the past 25 years, we’ve struggled to keep up with the pace of change,” notes the writer Greg Satell in his book Mapping Innovation (2017). “But over the next few decades, we will struggle to even understand the nature of change as fundamentally new technologies begin to influence the way we work, live, and strive to innovate.” “What man thinks often becomes reality,” says Lovegrove in explanation of his practice. “It’s only a matter of time. Cars will fly because it has been set in our minds since Fritz Lang’s movies.” So maybe, the most important thing that multidisciplinarians like Lovegrove are doing for us – and to us – is “bending our minds to new perceptions”. They are training us for the future to come. Convergence runs at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, until 3 July 2017.


Renovation of the Edicule Covering the Tomb of Christ Words Yusuf al Daoud

Christianity’s A-list were in attendance – the heads of numerous churches, a top Vatican official. The Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras smiled on approvingly as a few hundred guests and assorted media celebrated the renovation of the edicule in Jerusalem, believed to be the site of Jesus Christ’s tomb. The launch in March was, speakers said, a glowing example of different Christian faiths working together for a common goal. The renovated edicule, a large rectangular 19th-century ornate building on top of the tomb inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, had been transformed from a dull black to terracotta-speckled beige. Over the course of nearly a year, every part of it was systematically dismantled and restored. The process has not been straightforward, however. It is a story of how infighting and sectarianism led to decades of delays – and how a common threat finally forced the churches to put aside their differences. As well as hosting his tomb, the vast Holy Sepulchre church is believed by Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians to be the site of Jesus’s crucifixion. The sharing of Christianity’s holiest site has never been amicable. Every morning around dawn, two Muslim men meet at its entrance. One carries a key, the other a stepladder. The men come from two of Jerusalem’s oldest families – the Joudehs and the Nuseibehs – and between them they control access to the church. The Joudehs look after the key, but only the Nuseibehs are allowed to climb the ladder and unlock the door. When the priests leave every night, the men carry out the same process in reverse. It has been like this for centuries – at least since the 1500s, but possibly as far back

as Saladin’s sultanate in the 12th century. Some could interpret this as a bright spark in a divided world, a rare example of interfaith trust. Others could see it as an act of religious oppression – Muslims controlling access to Christianity’s holiest site. Neither is correct. The Muslims were asked to take on the role to help end an intra-Christian row. For generations, the different sects could not decide which of them should be able to lock the door and take the key to their religion’s holiest site home. A person of non-Christian faith might be a more neutral keeper of the

Every morning around dawn, two Muslim men meet at the church’s entrance. One carries a key, the other a stepladder. Between them, they control access to the church. keys, it was reasoned, and provide a way of breaking the deadlock. Or so the folklore surrounding the process runs. While all Christians see the site as holy, three sects have de facto control of it – the Latins (a branch of Catholicism), Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox. This distribution does not correspond to the global popularity of these three denominations – there are more than a billion Catholics and only a few million members of the Armenian Orthodox Church in the world – but rather to historical power relations in Jerusalem. A quick tour of the Holy Sepulchre makes the governing system clear. The building itself is segregated along sectarian lines, with different denominations given different sections in an uncodified but rather rigid theological hierarchy. To

170

the right of the entrance, the Catholics control the site where Jesus is believed to have been nailed to his cross; the Greeks where he is believed to have died. The Armenians have the space to the left of the entrance, as well as the underground chapel. The poorer and less influential churches – the Ethiopian Orthodox, the Copts – have to make do with small alcoves around the back, far away from the grand entrance which is packed with worshippers kneeling at the so-called Stone of Anointing, where Jesus’s body is believed to have been prepared for burial. Members of these churches are allowed to walk through each other’s territory, but the decoration of each area is based on denominational control – meaning parts of the church feature Greek script, others Latin. Protestants – dating as they do from 1517, centuries after the Holy Sepulchre church was built – get no permanent presence and senior officials are prevented from formal prayer ceremonies inside. During a recent visit to Jerusalem, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told a press conference that it would be a “huge and a wonderful privilege” to pray there, but admitted a change was not imminent. In 1852, after serious infighting between Catholics and Orthodox believers, the city’s Ottoman rulers announced the status quo laws – freezing the control over the church as it was at the time. Crucially it meant that any changes or renovations to the site required the consent of every sect. This has all but crippled any plans to renovate the building for decades – each denomination believing the others will use it as an opportunity to seek to expand their influence. An apt illustration

All photographs courtesy of Gali Tibbon.

The restoration of the most holy site in Christianity nearly didn’t happen, with its eventual completion revealing a history of interdenominational spatial politics that has long defined Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The renovation of the edicule cost $3.7m, and was funded by the World Monuments Fund, Jordan’s King Abdullah, and multiple private benefactors.

Review


Renovation of the Edicule Covering the Tomb of Christ Words Yusuf al Daoud

Christianity’s A-list were in attendance – the heads of numerous churches, a top Vatican official. The Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras smiled on approvingly as a few hundred guests and assorted media celebrated the renovation of the edicule in Jerusalem, believed to be the site of Jesus Christ’s tomb. The launch in March was, speakers said, a glowing example of different Christian faiths working together for a common goal. The renovated edicule, a large rectangular 19th-century ornate building on top of the tomb inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, had been transformed from a dull black to terracotta-speckled beige. Over the course of nearly a year, every part of it was systematically dismantled and restored. The process has not been straightforward, however. It is a story of how infighting and sectarianism led to decades of delays – and how a common threat finally forced the churches to put aside their differences. As well as hosting his tomb, the vast Holy Sepulchre church is believed by Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians to be the site of Jesus’s crucifixion. The sharing of Christianity’s holiest site has never been amicable. Every morning around dawn, two Muslim men meet at its entrance. One carries a key, the other a stepladder. The men come from two of Jerusalem’s oldest families – the Joudehs and the Nuseibehs – and between them they control access to the church. The Joudehs look after the key, but only the Nuseibehs are allowed to climb the ladder and unlock the door. When the priests leave every night, the men carry out the same process in reverse. It has been like this for centuries – at least since the 1500s, but possibly as far back

as Saladin’s sultanate in the 12th century. Some could interpret this as a bright spark in a divided world, a rare example of interfaith trust. Others could see it as an act of religious oppression – Muslims controlling access to Christianity’s holiest site. Neither is correct. The Muslims were asked to take on the role to help end an intra-Christian row. For generations, the different sects could not decide which of them should be able to lock the door and take the key to their religion’s holiest site home. A person of non-Christian faith might be a more neutral keeper of the

Every morning around dawn, two Muslim men meet at the church’s entrance. One carries a key, the other a stepladder. Between them, they control access to the church. keys, it was reasoned, and provide a way of breaking the deadlock. Or so the folklore surrounding the process runs. While all Christians see the site as holy, three sects have de facto control of it – the Latins (a branch of Catholicism), Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox. This distribution does not correspond to the global popularity of these three denominations – there are more than a billion Catholics and only a few million members of the Armenian Orthodox Church in the world – but rather to historical power relations in Jerusalem. A quick tour of the Holy Sepulchre makes the governing system clear. The building itself is segregated along sectarian lines, with different denominations given different sections in an uncodified but rather rigid theological hierarchy. To

170

the right of the entrance, the Catholics control the site where Jesus is believed to have been nailed to his cross; the Greeks where he is believed to have died. The Armenians have the space to the left of the entrance, as well as the underground chapel. The poorer and less influential churches – the Ethiopian Orthodox, the Copts – have to make do with small alcoves around the back, far away from the grand entrance which is packed with worshippers kneeling at the so-called Stone of Anointing, where Jesus’s body is believed to have been prepared for burial. Members of these churches are allowed to walk through each other’s territory, but the decoration of each area is based on denominational control – meaning parts of the church feature Greek script, others Latin. Protestants – dating as they do from 1517, centuries after the Holy Sepulchre church was built – get no permanent presence and senior officials are prevented from formal prayer ceremonies inside. During a recent visit to Jerusalem, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told a press conference that it would be a “huge and a wonderful privilege” to pray there, but admitted a change was not imminent. In 1852, after serious infighting between Catholics and Orthodox believers, the city’s Ottoman rulers announced the status quo laws – freezing the control over the church as it was at the time. Crucially it meant that any changes or renovations to the site required the consent of every sect. This has all but crippled any plans to renovate the building for decades – each denomination believing the others will use it as an opportunity to seek to expand their influence. An apt illustration

All photographs courtesy of Gali Tibbon.

The restoration of the most holy site in Christianity nearly didn’t happen, with its eventual completion revealing a history of interdenominational spatial politics that has long defined Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The renovation of the edicule cost $3.7m, and was funded by the World Monuments Fund, Jordan’s King Abdullah, and multiple private benefactors.

Review


Decoration across the church varies dramatically, reflecting the denominational control of each separate area of the building.

of these deep-seated antagonisms can be found in the ladder that was left under a window on the front facade of the church in the 1700s. Church leaders disagreed over who was in control of the area and therefore who should be able to move it – and so it stayed in place decade after decade. In 1964, the Pope declared the ladder could not be moved until the Orthodox and Catholic branches of Christianity united. Unsurprisingly, it is still there. Today the infighting continues, reaching critical levels during religious holidays. Around Easter or Christmas disputes can even become physical, with fully robed priests striking one another over perceived slights. Multiple times in recent years Israeli police have had to step in to pull them apart. In 2008, for example, Greek Orthodox monks wanted to post one of their number inside the edicule but the Armenians refused this

request, prompting the Greeks to block a religious procession. The incident resulted in physical clashes. The edicule itself was not immune to these centuries of toxicity. In 1947 the British mandate in historic Palestine was drawing to a close. A year later, under growing pressure from a well-organised Jewish insurgency, they embarked upon a hasty, poorly managed withdrawal. The vacuum they left behind swiftly morphed into a war between Jews and Arabs and ultimately into a conflict that has plagued the region for nearly 70 years. Meanwhile, inside the church, the edicule was falling apart. Built in 1810 by the Greek Orthodox Church, the shrine surrounding the tomb of Christ stands around 20m high, and has a flat roof topped by a Russian-style dome. Above, light pours in from a skylight in the gilded dome. The ornate front facade of twisted columns and carved ornaments leads to two chambers

172

inside. The outer one houses a piece of what is believed to be the boulder used to seal Jesus’s tomb. From there, a very low doorway leads to the tomb chamber. Inside, a marble slab covers the rock bench on which Jesus’s body is believed to have lain for three days before his resurrection. Decades of use and little upkeep had taken their toll. Pilgrims burning candles had turned the walls all but black while, more seriously, the red-marble cladding was deteriorating. There was concern parts of it could fall down and injure worshippers. During the British Mandate period in Jerusalem’s history (1920-1948) people knew that something had to be done, but time was short and there was little chance of agreement between the churches. As a temporary solution in 1947, the British threw up metal girders to hem in the structure. These were meant to prevent the edicule from collapsing until a proper

solution could be found. The girders remained in place until 2017. Major renovation works took place in most of the church between the 1960s and 1990s but the edicule itself was left untouched. Quite why is the subject of numerous competing theories, although infighting is again likely to have played its part. The inscriptions that adorn it, one priest pointed out at the launch of the renovation, were all in Greek, thereby reflecting the nationality of the structure’s designers, but not the delicate balance of the church’s day-to-day operation. If renovations were going to happen, that would need rebalancing. But the Greek Orthodox Church could never agree to that. So nothing happened. Change was unlikely to come of its own accord, then – it needed an ultimatum. In 2015, the deterioration of the edicule had reached dangerous levels. The metal frame had far outlived its lifespan and parts were falling off. Israeli authorities concluded that the risk a pilgrim or tourist could be seriously injured or even killed was serious. Conscious of their controversial status – the world has never accepted Israeli sovereignty over this part of Jerusalem after they seized it in 1967 – and the importance of Christian tourists to the economy, the decision cannot have been taken lightly. But on the morning of 17 February 2015, police from the world’s only Jewish state stormed the globe’s holiest Christian site, closing the edicule for more than four hours. They were publicly rebuked. “Sending in a police force to impose closure of this shrine, especially in the abrupt manner in which this was done, shows absolute contempt for our communities and their rights[…],” a joint statement from the three leading churches said. “We hope that it never happens again.” Despite this public fury, behind the scenes the message – do something, or we will have to – was heard. Within a few months the churches publicly committed to carrying out the works needed to begin to restore the building, and within little more than a year they had formed a committee and found the $3.7m needed for the renovation. Among the funders for the project were the World Monuments Fund and Jordan’s King Abdullah, as well as multiple private benefactors from the various churches.

Once the money was found, challenges remained. Chief renovator Antonia Moropoulou, from the National Technical University of Athens, explained that her small team systematically dismantled, cleaned and renovated almost all of the edicule, including the columns and upper and inner domes. The blackened tiles were cleaned and returned to what Moropoulou said was their original beige hue – “the colour of hope,” she labelled it. The process was complicated by one rare moment of agreement between the churches – that the renovations must not stop prayer. Millions of tourists and pilgrims visit the church every year and entry to

On the morning of 17 February 2015, police from the world’s only Jewish state stormed the globe’s holiest Christian site, closing the edicule for more than four hours. the edicule is a key part of the tour – with queues often stretching around the back of the structure. For Moropoulou, that meant adopting unusual approaches – her team often worked late into the night to do tasks that were impossible when surrounded by pilgrims. The edicule was closed once, though, for around 60 hours in October 2016 for perhaps the most dramatic moment in the renovation. The slab covering Jesus’s alleged burial site was moved for the first time to reveal what lay below. The team found another slab there, from the era of the Crusades, indicating the tomb had not been opened for at least 700 years. Underneath that, they found yet another stone from the era of Constantine the Great, the emperor who began the Roman Empire’s transition to Christianity in the fourth century CE. This means that the church is built on the site fourth-century Christians believed to be Jesus’s burial spot. For Moropoulou, the discovery proved that Jesus’s body was laid to rest there. Other Christians believe that he was buried in a second spot outside of Jerusalem’s Old City. “[Whether Jesus was buried here] is not a matter of an argument, it is a matter of revealing a tomb which is alive,” said Moropoulou at the opening. For optimists, the edicule’s renovation signals that a new era of

Review

fraternal relationships between the rival sects might have begun and plans for a further $6m renovation of the edicule that would include repairing the decaying floor are under discussion, although far from imminent. A similar renovation at the Church of the Nativity, the site in Bethlehem where Christians believe Jesus was born, is expected to finish by 2019. At the edicule’s reopening ceremony leaders from the three churches – others were seemingly not included – hailed the newly convivial atmosphere. They praised the works, but most of all they praised the spirit of cooperation. According to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, the renovation was “not only a gift to our holy land but to the whole world”. An Armenian speaker even raised the possibility of allowing protestants access to the church for one day a year. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the church’s Senior Catholic official, claimed most people thought reaching a deal to renovate the edicule was impossible. For decades, he said, visiting pilgrims had asked when necessary works would take place, he said. “The common answer, the diplomatic answer, was we will never see that day. If we are here for this celebration it is because the different churches [and] their leaders have been able –” he said, pausing slightly, “– able to change.” The renovation of the edicule covering the tomb of Christ was unveiled at a ceremony in Jerusalem on 22 March 2017.


Decoration across the church varies dramatically, reflecting the denominational control of each separate area of the building.

of these deep-seated antagonisms can be found in the ladder that was left under a window on the front facade of the church in the 1700s. Church leaders disagreed over who was in control of the area and therefore who should be able to move it – and so it stayed in place decade after decade. In 1964, the Pope declared the ladder could not be moved until the Orthodox and Catholic branches of Christianity united. Unsurprisingly, it is still there. Today the infighting continues, reaching critical levels during religious holidays. Around Easter or Christmas disputes can even become physical, with fully robed priests striking one another over perceived slights. Multiple times in recent years Israeli police have had to step in to pull them apart. In 2008, for example, Greek Orthodox monks wanted to post one of their number inside the edicule but the Armenians refused this

request, prompting the Greeks to block a religious procession. The incident resulted in physical clashes. The edicule itself was not immune to these centuries of toxicity. In 1947 the British mandate in historic Palestine was drawing to a close. A year later, under growing pressure from a well-organised Jewish insurgency, they embarked upon a hasty, poorly managed withdrawal. The vacuum they left behind swiftly morphed into a war between Jews and Arabs and ultimately into a conflict that has plagued the region for nearly 70 years. Meanwhile, inside the church, the edicule was falling apart. Built in 1810 by the Greek Orthodox Church, the shrine surrounding the tomb of Christ stands around 20m high, and has a flat roof topped by a Russian-style dome. Above, light pours in from a skylight in the gilded dome. The ornate front facade of twisted columns and carved ornaments leads to two chambers

172

inside. The outer one houses a piece of what is believed to be the boulder used to seal Jesus’s tomb. From there, a very low doorway leads to the tomb chamber. Inside, a marble slab covers the rock bench on which Jesus’s body is believed to have lain for three days before his resurrection. Decades of use and little upkeep had taken their toll. Pilgrims burning candles had turned the walls all but black while, more seriously, the red-marble cladding was deteriorating. There was concern parts of it could fall down and injure worshippers. During the British Mandate period in Jerusalem’s history (1920-1948) people knew that something had to be done, but time was short and there was little chance of agreement between the churches. As a temporary solution in 1947, the British threw up metal girders to hem in the structure. These were meant to prevent the edicule from collapsing until a proper

solution could be found. The girders remained in place until 2017. Major renovation works took place in most of the church between the 1960s and 1990s but the edicule itself was left untouched. Quite why is the subject of numerous competing theories, although infighting is again likely to have played its part. The inscriptions that adorn it, one priest pointed out at the launch of the renovation, were all in Greek, thereby reflecting the nationality of the structure’s designers, but not the delicate balance of the church’s day-to-day operation. If renovations were going to happen, that would need rebalancing. But the Greek Orthodox Church could never agree to that. So nothing happened. Change was unlikely to come of its own accord, then – it needed an ultimatum. In 2015, the deterioration of the edicule had reached dangerous levels. The metal frame had far outlived its lifespan and parts were falling off. Israeli authorities concluded that the risk a pilgrim or tourist could be seriously injured or even killed was serious. Conscious of their controversial status – the world has never accepted Israeli sovereignty over this part of Jerusalem after they seized it in 1967 – and the importance of Christian tourists to the economy, the decision cannot have been taken lightly. But on the morning of 17 February 2015, police from the world’s only Jewish state stormed the globe’s holiest Christian site, closing the edicule for more than four hours. They were publicly rebuked. “Sending in a police force to impose closure of this shrine, especially in the abrupt manner in which this was done, shows absolute contempt for our communities and their rights[…],” a joint statement from the three leading churches said. “We hope that it never happens again.” Despite this public fury, behind the scenes the message – do something, or we will have to – was heard. Within a few months the churches publicly committed to carrying out the works needed to begin to restore the building, and within little more than a year they had formed a committee and found the $3.7m needed for the renovation. Among the funders for the project were the World Monuments Fund and Jordan’s King Abdullah, as well as multiple private benefactors from the various churches.

Once the money was found, challenges remained. Chief renovator Antonia Moropoulou, from the National Technical University of Athens, explained that her small team systematically dismantled, cleaned and renovated almost all of the edicule, including the columns and upper and inner domes. The blackened tiles were cleaned and returned to what Moropoulou said was their original beige hue – “the colour of hope,” she labelled it. The process was complicated by one rare moment of agreement between the churches – that the renovations must not stop prayer. Millions of tourists and pilgrims visit the church every year and entry to

On the morning of 17 February 2015, police from the world’s only Jewish state stormed the globe’s holiest Christian site, closing the edicule for more than four hours. the edicule is a key part of the tour – with queues often stretching around the back of the structure. For Moropoulou, that meant adopting unusual approaches – her team often worked late into the night to do tasks that were impossible when surrounded by pilgrims. The edicule was closed once, though, for around 60 hours in October 2016 for perhaps the most dramatic moment in the renovation. The slab covering Jesus’s alleged burial site was moved for the first time to reveal what lay below. The team found another slab there, from the era of the Crusades, indicating the tomb had not been opened for at least 700 years. Underneath that, they found yet another stone from the era of Constantine the Great, the emperor who began the Roman Empire’s transition to Christianity in the fourth century CE. This means that the church is built on the site fourth-century Christians believed to be Jesus’s burial spot. For Moropoulou, the discovery proved that Jesus’s body was laid to rest there. Other Christians believe that he was buried in a second spot outside of Jerusalem’s Old City. “[Whether Jesus was buried here] is not a matter of an argument, it is a matter of revealing a tomb which is alive,” said Moropoulou at the opening. For optimists, the edicule’s renovation signals that a new era of

Review

fraternal relationships between the rival sects might have begun and plans for a further $6m renovation of the edicule that would include repairing the decaying floor are under discussion, although far from imminent. A similar renovation at the Church of the Nativity, the site in Bethlehem where Christians believe Jesus was born, is expected to finish by 2019. At the edicule’s reopening ceremony leaders from the three churches – others were seemingly not included – hailed the newly convivial atmosphere. They praised the works, but most of all they praised the spirit of cooperation. According to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, the renovation was “not only a gift to our holy land but to the whole world”. An Armenian speaker even raised the possibility of allowing protestants access to the church for one day a year. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the church’s Senior Catholic official, claimed most people thought reaching a deal to renovate the edicule was impossible. For decades, he said, visiting pilgrims had asked when necessary works would take place, he said. “The common answer, the diplomatic answer, was we will never see that day. If we are here for this celebration it is because the different churches [and] their leaders have been able –” he said, pausing slightly, “– able to change.” The renovation of the edicule covering the tomb of Christ was unveiled at a ceremony in Jerusalem on 22 March 2017.


Their Mortal Remains at the V&A Words Will Wiles

The latest in a series of blockbuster pop culture exhibitions, the V&A’s show on the rock band Pink Floyd prompts reflection on the rise of the jukebox show and the connections forged between subject and audience. Hands over eyes, a photograph taken of Pink Floyd by

in. Audio experimentation, aimed at an immersive experience – it’s very Pink Floyd. And while it stutters a little at times, it’s extremely effective. Their Mortal Remains is the second outing for the Sennheiser system, the first being the 2013 show David Bowie Is. These two musical extravaganzas, and the similarly ambitious 2015 Alexander McQueen retrospective, were the plum blockbusters of Martin Roth’s period as director of the V&A, which came to an end with his resignation in September last year. Roth combined these unabashed crowd-pleasers with a savvy approach to collecting contemporary design, inaugurating the museum’s Rapid Response Collecting programme

Success is its own justification, up to a point, but how important is an exhibition like Their Mortal Remains? Does it serve a broader purpose, or is it We Will Rock You for Guardian readers? and hosting nimble and timely shows such as Disobedient Objects (2014), which looked at protest and dissent. It was an approach that shadowed Paola Antonelli’s era-defining stint as design curator for MoMA in New York (as well as parallel curatorial dives into pop culture at other institutions: the McQueen retrospective originated at the Met in 2011, while MoMA launched 2015’s critically derided Björk) and which was rewarded in turn with similar popular success, bringing record numbers of visitors to the V&A’s galleries. But now Roth has departed, replaced by historian and former MP for Stoke-on-

174

Trent Tristram Hunt, whose plans have yet to become clear. The big Roth-era shows have been indisputable hits, and success is its own justification, up to a point. But while it might ring the tills and brighten the balance sheets of a vital institution, how important is a show like Their Mortal Remains? Does it serve a broader purpose, or is it We Will Rock You for Guardian readers? Pink Floyd was founded in 1965, comprising frontman Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. Barrett and Waters were childhood friends from Cambridge, and met the others via Regent Street Polytechnic in London, where Waters, Mason and Wright studied architecture. The band played blues, expertly improvised on stage into hours-long psychedelic sets that made ideal backing for the countercultural happenings of mid-60s London. Alongside The Soft Machine, Pink Floyd found an early spiritual home at UFO on Tottenham Court Road, a venue with a sprawling avant-garde programme – a Michael English-designed poster on show at Their Mortal Remains also includes the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Disney cartoons and a screening of Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel’s film Un Chien Andalou. The opening rooms of Their Mortal Remains gather together the vivid ephemera of the era with some of the influences that the group’s members were absorbing, from the ancient Japanese game Go and the I Ching to Aubrey Beardsley and cargo-cult Victoriana. However, not even the immersive soundtrack and vitrines stuffed with eclectic bits and bobs can quite dispel the atmosphere of shuffling through a

All photographs courtesy of the V&A.

The best-known bit of folk wisdom about Pink Floyd is probably the Wizard of Oz connection: that if you play the album The Dark Side of the Moon alongside the 1939 film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s fantasy, they sync up in surprising and significant ways. This hidden knowledge begins with the album’s famous cover, a glass prism splitting a beam of white light into a spectrum, which (so the myth goes) refers to the film’s transition from black and white to Technicolor. This is hogwash, as the band’s members have said repeatedly. Dark Side is a good deal shorter than Oz, for a start, and the conspiracy would have entailed immense technical pains in order to achieve very little of interest: no more than a couple of instances of eerie affinity between the music and the action on the screen. But it’s hard to quash a myth, and this one draws its endurance from the layered, esoteric nature of Pink Floyd’s music and the enigmatic imagery with which they surrounded themselves. Why shouldn’t there be another, covert, stratum of meaning? Today, eerie synchronicity can be achieved via technological means. Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s (V&A) blockbuster exhibition built around the band, comes with a soundtrack via a technological collaboration with headphone-maker Sennheiser. On arrival, the visitor is issued with a pair of headphones attached to a small receiver that slips into the pocket. Pink Floyd’s music plays continuously through these headphones, changing from area to area (cued, cleverly, by loops set into the floor). Move close to a screen showing a talking head and the relevant audio cuts

Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell in Belsize Park, 1971.

Tube station at rush hour. Letters, contracts and posters that might repay prolonged examination have to be viewed through the armpits of other visitors, and not for long, so as to give others a chance. It’s sometimes impossible to get close enough to screens to hear the associated audio. In this respect, the section of the show with some of the most interesting, unexpected and rare bits and bobs is its least satisfying. The group signed to EMI and began releasing singles, with increasing commercial success. The pressure to produce songs and tour constantly was too much for Barrett, the group’s brilliant, charismatic and mercurial frontman, and he became increasingly depressed and erratic. David Gilmour, another childhood friend of Barrett and Waters, was brought into the line-up as reinforcement; Barrett then left the group in 1968, and lived most of the rest of his life as a semi-recluse in Cambridge. Meanwhile, music-buyers’ tastes were shifting from singles to albums – a change that suited Pink Floyd’s urge to get away from individual pop songs and into deeper, narrative music that better reflected their mesmerising stage performances. A string of albums were released in quick succession: Ummagumma (1969), an effort to harness the experience of the live act, Atom Heart Mother (1970) and Meddle (1971). And then came The Dark Side of the Moon. At this point Their Mortal Remains changes gear quite dramatically – the crowds thin as the density of exhibits

decreases and the mood turns from curious to reverent. Standing in a darkened room, you can listen to this perfect album playing across your headphones, while watching a hologram of the rainbow prism of the album’s cover rotating in space. It’s tempting to remain there, but riches lie ahead. I should confess to feeling something of a fraud. I was far too young (indeed, far too unborn) to enjoy the bulk of Pink Floyd’s output in its original time and place, and I am now in middle age. I was born in 1978, between Animals (1977) and The Wall (1979), as the group’s fame reached its zenith. Roger Waters left in 1985, signalling the end of its extraordinary golden age; he made a legal effort to stop the use of the Floyd name but failed, and Gilmour and Mason continued to tour and record. Pink Floyd was the music of my parents’ generation. The first and only Pink Floyd release I can

There were no youthful epiphanies. My parents were abroad for most of the 1970s, and their collection skipped from The Beatles to Eurythmics. remember as an event was their penultimate studio album, 1994’s The Division Bell. Even this did not seem exactly current, but more like a rediscovered artefact of a former age, an impression solidified by its cover art created by Storm Thorgerson, founder of the London-based design group Hipgnosis: enigmatic Moai-like

Review

metal heads scowling at each other, their mouths framing Ely cathedral, some distance away across a darkening fen-scape. Two heads, or one single face, split down the middle? Is that the “division” in The Division Bell? It was an eerie and intriguing image but it didn’t give me any particular desire to listen to the music within. Indeed, it didn’t really seem like something aimed at the 16-year-old me at all. So although it might be nice and colourful to claim some kind of ancient and primal connection with the music, I cannot. There were no youthful epiphanies with glossy vinyl held in faded cardboard. My parents were abroad for most of the 1970s, and their music collection skipped straight from The Beatles to Eurythmics. Once I got to university, a friend urged The Dark Side of the Moon on me in the evangelical manner that album inspires in its fans, and I came to actually listen to Pink Floyd for the first time. Twenty-five years after release, it had lost none of its shocking originality. The heartbeat at the beginning of the disc had been previously described to me, and it struck me as a gimmick – but it gives the opening a weird and magical intimacy, almost as if the music emerges from within the listener. The rest was like discovering a pure strain of something I had been experiencing in adulterated form for years. But this is not to say that I was unaware of Pink Floyd: on the contrary. I don’t think anyone who grew up in the 1980s could have been unaware of Pink


Their Mortal Remains at the V&A Words Will Wiles

The latest in a series of blockbuster pop culture exhibitions, the V&A’s show on the rock band Pink Floyd prompts reflection on the rise of the jukebox show and the connections forged between subject and audience. Hands over eyes, a photograph taken of Pink Floyd by

in. Audio experimentation, aimed at an immersive experience – it’s very Pink Floyd. And while it stutters a little at times, it’s extremely effective. Their Mortal Remains is the second outing for the Sennheiser system, the first being the 2013 show David Bowie Is. These two musical extravaganzas, and the similarly ambitious 2015 Alexander McQueen retrospective, were the plum blockbusters of Martin Roth’s period as director of the V&A, which came to an end with his resignation in September last year. Roth combined these unabashed crowd-pleasers with a savvy approach to collecting contemporary design, inaugurating the museum’s Rapid Response Collecting programme

Success is its own justification, up to a point, but how important is an exhibition like Their Mortal Remains? Does it serve a broader purpose, or is it We Will Rock You for Guardian readers? and hosting nimble and timely shows such as Disobedient Objects (2014), which looked at protest and dissent. It was an approach that shadowed Paola Antonelli’s era-defining stint as design curator for MoMA in New York (as well as parallel curatorial dives into pop culture at other institutions: the McQueen retrospective originated at the Met in 2011, while MoMA launched 2015’s critically derided Björk) and which was rewarded in turn with similar popular success, bringing record numbers of visitors to the V&A’s galleries. But now Roth has departed, replaced by historian and former MP for Stoke-on-

174

Trent Tristram Hunt, whose plans have yet to become clear. The big Roth-era shows have been indisputable hits, and success is its own justification, up to a point. But while it might ring the tills and brighten the balance sheets of a vital institution, how important is a show like Their Mortal Remains? Does it serve a broader purpose, or is it We Will Rock You for Guardian readers? Pink Floyd was founded in 1965, comprising frontman Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. Barrett and Waters were childhood friends from Cambridge, and met the others via Regent Street Polytechnic in London, where Waters, Mason and Wright studied architecture. The band played blues, expertly improvised on stage into hours-long psychedelic sets that made ideal backing for the countercultural happenings of mid-60s London. Alongside The Soft Machine, Pink Floyd found an early spiritual home at UFO on Tottenham Court Road, a venue with a sprawling avant-garde programme – a Michael English-designed poster on show at Their Mortal Remains also includes the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Disney cartoons and a screening of Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel’s film Un Chien Andalou. The opening rooms of Their Mortal Remains gather together the vivid ephemera of the era with some of the influences that the group’s members were absorbing, from the ancient Japanese game Go and the I Ching to Aubrey Beardsley and cargo-cult Victoriana. However, not even the immersive soundtrack and vitrines stuffed with eclectic bits and bobs can quite dispel the atmosphere of shuffling through a

All photographs courtesy of the V&A.

The best-known bit of folk wisdom about Pink Floyd is probably the Wizard of Oz connection: that if you play the album The Dark Side of the Moon alongside the 1939 film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s fantasy, they sync up in surprising and significant ways. This hidden knowledge begins with the album’s famous cover, a glass prism splitting a beam of white light into a spectrum, which (so the myth goes) refers to the film’s transition from black and white to Technicolor. This is hogwash, as the band’s members have said repeatedly. Dark Side is a good deal shorter than Oz, for a start, and the conspiracy would have entailed immense technical pains in order to achieve very little of interest: no more than a couple of instances of eerie affinity between the music and the action on the screen. But it’s hard to quash a myth, and this one draws its endurance from the layered, esoteric nature of Pink Floyd’s music and the enigmatic imagery with which they surrounded themselves. Why shouldn’t there be another, covert, stratum of meaning? Today, eerie synchronicity can be achieved via technological means. Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s (V&A) blockbuster exhibition built around the band, comes with a soundtrack via a technological collaboration with headphone-maker Sennheiser. On arrival, the visitor is issued with a pair of headphones attached to a small receiver that slips into the pocket. Pink Floyd’s music plays continuously through these headphones, changing from area to area (cued, cleverly, by loops set into the floor). Move close to a screen showing a talking head and the relevant audio cuts

Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell in Belsize Park, 1971.

Tube station at rush hour. Letters, contracts and posters that might repay prolonged examination have to be viewed through the armpits of other visitors, and not for long, so as to give others a chance. It’s sometimes impossible to get close enough to screens to hear the associated audio. In this respect, the section of the show with some of the most interesting, unexpected and rare bits and bobs is its least satisfying. The group signed to EMI and began releasing singles, with increasing commercial success. The pressure to produce songs and tour constantly was too much for Barrett, the group’s brilliant, charismatic and mercurial frontman, and he became increasingly depressed and erratic. David Gilmour, another childhood friend of Barrett and Waters, was brought into the line-up as reinforcement; Barrett then left the group in 1968, and lived most of the rest of his life as a semi-recluse in Cambridge. Meanwhile, music-buyers’ tastes were shifting from singles to albums – a change that suited Pink Floyd’s urge to get away from individual pop songs and into deeper, narrative music that better reflected their mesmerising stage performances. A string of albums were released in quick succession: Ummagumma (1969), an effort to harness the experience of the live act, Atom Heart Mother (1970) and Meddle (1971). And then came The Dark Side of the Moon. At this point Their Mortal Remains changes gear quite dramatically – the crowds thin as the density of exhibits

decreases and the mood turns from curious to reverent. Standing in a darkened room, you can listen to this perfect album playing across your headphones, while watching a hologram of the rainbow prism of the album’s cover rotating in space. It’s tempting to remain there, but riches lie ahead. I should confess to feeling something of a fraud. I was far too young (indeed, far too unborn) to enjoy the bulk of Pink Floyd’s output in its original time and place, and I am now in middle age. I was born in 1978, between Animals (1977) and The Wall (1979), as the group’s fame reached its zenith. Roger Waters left in 1985, signalling the end of its extraordinary golden age; he made a legal effort to stop the use of the Floyd name but failed, and Gilmour and Mason continued to tour and record. Pink Floyd was the music of my parents’ generation. The first and only Pink Floyd release I can

There were no youthful epiphanies. My parents were abroad for most of the 1970s, and their collection skipped from The Beatles to Eurythmics. remember as an event was their penultimate studio album, 1994’s The Division Bell. Even this did not seem exactly current, but more like a rediscovered artefact of a former age, an impression solidified by its cover art created by Storm Thorgerson, founder of the London-based design group Hipgnosis: enigmatic Moai-like

Review

metal heads scowling at each other, their mouths framing Ely cathedral, some distance away across a darkening fen-scape. Two heads, or one single face, split down the middle? Is that the “division” in The Division Bell? It was an eerie and intriguing image but it didn’t give me any particular desire to listen to the music within. Indeed, it didn’t really seem like something aimed at the 16-year-old me at all. So although it might be nice and colourful to claim some kind of ancient and primal connection with the music, I cannot. There were no youthful epiphanies with glossy vinyl held in faded cardboard. My parents were abroad for most of the 1970s, and their music collection skipped straight from The Beatles to Eurythmics. Once I got to university, a friend urged The Dark Side of the Moon on me in the evangelical manner that album inspires in its fans, and I came to actually listen to Pink Floyd for the first time. Twenty-five years after release, it had lost none of its shocking originality. The heartbeat at the beginning of the disc had been previously described to me, and it struck me as a gimmick – but it gives the opening a weird and magical intimacy, almost as if the music emerges from within the listener. The rest was like discovering a pure strain of something I had been experiencing in adulterated form for years. But this is not to say that I was unaware of Pink Floyd: on the contrary. I don’t think anyone who grew up in the 1980s could have been unaware of Pink


Floyd. It’s simply that that name did not connect to any music for me, with the exception of the chorus of ‘Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)’, sung by a children’s choir and beginning “We don’t need no education”, which understandably proved popular in the playground. I wouldn’t have been able to name any of the group’s members, or even say how many there were. Instead, what Pink Floyd summoned in my mind was imagery. There was the Dark Side prism, endlessly repeated in an ever-widening beam of cultural ubiquity. The Gerald Scarfe animations from The Wall, children fed into meat grinders by sadistic teachers and neo-Nazi hammers marching to the horizon – it was Sesame Street gone catastrophically dystopian, an open window on the Thatcherite reaction that had only just begun. And, perhaps most importantly, the inflatable pig, floating over Battersea Power Station in the ambiguous light of pre-dawn or dusk. These were, by the time of my childhood, all cultural icons, endlessly repeated and referenced and remixed on TV and in the comics I read, from Oink! to 2000AD. This increasing use of artistic collaboration and spectacle was a by-product of the sensational success of The Dark Side of the Moon. The group had greater resources at its disposal and was playing the biggest venues, letting them achieve long-held ambitions in stage spectacle. Pink Floyd’s live shows had always gone beyond music. They experimented with lighting from the start, and were among the first groups to use slide projection during shows. According to Pigs Might Fly, Mark Blake’s biography of Pink Floyd, they also pretty much invented the “oil slide” effect that is so associated with psychedelia by shining a stage light through a condom stretched across a wire frame and dripping oil paint onto it. After 1973, Waters’ longstanding desire to create new performance spaces and immersive experiences could be realised. This was coupled with the continuing – and intensifying – collaboration with Hipgnosis. The Dark Side prism was joined by Hipgnosis’s haunting cover for Wish You Were Here (1975), in which two suited men shake hands, one of them engulfed in flames. This, like all of Hipgnosis’s effects, was

Hipgnosis’s 1969 poster design for Pink Floyd’s The Massed Gadgets of

Auximines show.

done in-camera, with no editing trickery. Ronnie Rondell, dressed in a fireproof under-suit, was set alight 15 times before Aubrey Powell was satisfied that the right shot had been captured, a process of iteration documented at the V&A. Then, the group discovered inflatables and the kind of ideas that might have been the subject of wistful daydreams at UFO could be realised. Before it was firmly anchored to the British psyche, the flying pig – part cover-shoot, part publicity stunt – ran the risk of causing a major disaster by breaking loose and drifting into the airlanes above London. It landed, harmlessly, in a field in Kent, and was soon flying again. An inflatable “nuclear family” was made for the 1977 In the Flesh tour, consisting of a husband, a wife, two and a half children, and a selection of consumer durables. The stage show for The Wall made Scarfe’s nightmarish drawings into mechanical flesh. And so it continued, down to the airship deployed over audiences present during the Division Bell tour. These mega-props distanced Pink Floyd from their audience, ostensibly to better serve the music and the story, but the group also achieved a bizarre kind of monumental humility, sinking behind their image. During The Wall tour, Gilmour literally performed behind a wall, partly as a protest against the music industry. They can, however, be

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held partly responsible for the pompous stadium rock that followed. But at last the architectural instincts that had drawn them to Regent Street Poly could be expressed. This is the part of Their Mortal Remains that makes the strongest impression – not only are Pink Floyd’s contraptions and balloons impressive artefacts in themselves – the exhibition is finally properly scaled to the crowds it has attracted, and one is no longer peering at a ticket stub over two dozen shoulders. The curators trace Pink Floyd’s awesome but fleeting stagecraft to the master-architects of the temporary and the amusing, Cedric Price and Archigram. However, the unique grandeur of Pink Floyd’s vision serves to highlight the limitation of an exhibition like Their Mortal Remains. It is absolutely germane to the V&A’s role in national life to highlight the work of musicians like Pink Floyd – or, for that matter, David Bowie. The music is superb enough, but it’s not all – there comes with it a pantechnicon of cultural activity that can reach into the imagination without a note being played. Continuing this kind of success will be hard, however, as only very few acts meet the criteria. They have to be long-lived, with a copious and varied output. They need to have had an extensive hinterland of influences, as well as multidisciplinary collaborations. They can’t be too obvious, nor too obscure. Do the Rolling Stones and you’re in jukebox territory, recapping a familiar tale. Whereas, say, Yes would be far too narrow. Their Mortal Remains ends in a wraparound video chamber screening footage of the group playing ‘Comfortably Numb’ at Live 8 in 2005 – the first time in 20 years that Waters and Gilmour could be persuaded to share a stage, and a reasonable full stop. Like a lot of Floyd, it’s serious and melancholy, but streaked with joy. Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains runs at the Victoria and Albert Museum until Sunday 1 October 2017.


The Architecture of Torture Words Nanjala Nyabola

“I’m conflicted. Sometimes I want them to just tear it down. But it’s also part of our history. If we don’t deal with the legacy of that past then we are likely to repeat the same mistakes.” Wachira Waheire spends several of the first minutes of our interview sizing me up. As he shares this observation, he is guarded and measured, uncertain that he will collaborate with me until he establishes who I am and why I need to speak to him. It is Saturday morning in the Kenyan capital Nairobi and the museum coffee shop where we are meeting is buzzing. Only when I show him samples of my previous writing on my phone does he begin to relax and speak a little more freely. “You know this story is very traumatising,” he tells me. “Every time a journalist asks me to talk about it, I give a piece of myself away. I relive the experience again. It’s very hard.” This story is the 17 days Waheire spent in the tower looming over us during our interview. Seventeen days in which he was beaten, tortured and interrogated before he was finally transferred to a maximum-security prison, where he was held in solitary confinement for four years. In 1986, Waheire was 25 and two years out of university when Kenyan Special Branch officers showed up at his office and asked him to follow them. The officers calmly escorted him to the back of a four-wheel drive and took him to his home. There, they found a political poster featuring an ear of corn and an AK47, and stating that food insecurity was the root of revolution. The officers argued that that was enough to charge him with sedition and suddenly the mood shifted. Waheire was bundled back into the four-wheeldrive truck and driven around for hours before he was dropped off in the bowels of a building he didn’t recognise. “I was promised a short questioning – I ended up in prison for four years. But had I not been so young and healthy I’m not sure I would even be here today,” he says, laughing mirthlessly.

The building where Waheire was held is Nyayo House, once the Nairobi provincial headquarters and the administrative heart of the city. The building was commissioned in 1973 while the newly independent country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, was in charge, but it wasn’t until 1979 under his successor, president Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, also known by the sobriquet Nyayo, that construction began. The tower is loaded with symbols of the relationship between the two men. Nyayo House was for several years the second-tallest building after the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), a nod to the way Moi, who served as vice president under Kenyatta, always positioned himself as secondary to his predecessor. Indeed, the word “Nyayo” is Swahili for footsteps – a nickname that Moi gave himself and his political philosophy to indicate that he would follow in the footsteps of Kenyatta. Thus, for more than two decades, Kenya’s big men symbolically presided over the capital city until Times Tower was completed in 2000. The Moi regime was on shaky ground from the beginning, but its most severe challenge was an attempted coup by the air force in 1982 that triggered a wave of punitive repression that arguably didn’t end until the Moi regime itself came to a close in 2002, and which reached its apogee in sites like Nyayo House. Commissioned by the Ministry of Works, it was initially planned as the 14-storey “Nairobi House”, the provincial headquarters of the city. In 1979, a year after he assumed office following the death of Kenyatta, Moi renamed the project Nyayo House. In a 2003 interview, then‑chief government architect, the late A.A. Ngotho, said that by the time they broke ground, the decision to use the building for Special Branch

History


If in Doubt, Ceramics Words and image Paul Lukas

— What about the lamp? — Rejected. The reflector was too expensive to produce: they didn’t want to fork out. — And the timber chair? — Not solid enough for the American market and not stackable; and in any case they only really liked the backrest. But I do have a project for a bowl. — That’s brilliant! I love ceramics. It’s magic, it’s earthy, that pile of mud that you raise and form into a shape: a trembling, moist thing like a newborn baby that needs your warmth to get strong. Then you fire it, it explodes, you glaze it and the beige powder comes out red, you make it black and it comes out green, then you try green and it’s not green. Then it cools down and explodes again. It’s not like resin; it’s alive! You feel a connection with the world: a technique that has been used for thousands of years, with the same totally unpredictable results. — Oh, I don’t know, you generally know that it’s going to come out all knobbly with a lumpy surface

covered in frothy drips like raku ware. After all, if you’re not doing raku, you’re nobody. — It must have been great! Hands in the clay, dirty feet on the pedal, kaolin hair stuck on end, working out how to sign the bottom, to leave your mark: the mark that all those early bird experts are looking for in car-boot sales, lifting bowls at dawn. Industrial production annihilated by craftsmanship. Well worth all those years spent learning to draw screw threads on a computer screen… to finally return to your origins: earth! — Well, yes, only the whole group of designers – about 20 of us – were given the same bowl, to personalise. It’s more graphic design really. — Oh, right. But who was the potter who made the bowl? I can just see it: the multi-technique, hyper-linked-in industrial designer working with the moody, hands-on, specialised craftsman. The marriage of two worlds – a partnership that always makes the

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most beautiful children. Can’t wait to see the final result! — The bowls were factory-made in China and shipped over. I wasn’t even paid for it, it really annoyed me; I just designed a new typeface, Frothy Drip, and wrote “Ra-ra raku!” on it. It’s not my finest hour but it’s the first time I’ve had such enthusiasm from a client: they’ve put my bowl on the cover of Mugs Galore! — Don’t know it. But great to get the cover, well done! And the new typeface, that’s brilliant, you’re breaking down barriers! 2D, 3D … So, on Mondays a chair, Tuesdays ceramics, Wednesdays you switch to typography… — Yeah, and on Thursdays I cry all the way through to the end of the weekend. —Don’t be daft! You’ll be able to sell on the typeface. You said it yourself: raku’s all the rage. — That’s true, Erica has already asked if she can use it for the invitations to her housewarming, only it’s loads of work to design all the other letters she needs.


Profile for Disegno

Disegno #15  

The story of Amanda Levete’s porcelain courtyard for the V&A; a travelogue about spirituality’s role in the architectural reconstruction of...

Disegno #15  

The story of Amanda Levete’s porcelain courtyard for the V&A; a travelogue about spirituality’s role in the architectural reconstruction of...