21 July 2008

This building is not build - its cast!

I recently went for a very interesting talk by a panel of speakers at the Queen Elizabeth Hall about the awesome Hayward Gallery (which is part of the South Bank Centre).

The talk was introduced and moderated by Ricky Burdett (Architect/ Professor at LSE) – he spoke about the making of the Hayward gallery and its 40 years of existence highlighting some of the key exhibition hosted by this eccentric little building tucked away behind it’s more glamorous sisters.

He was followed by Dennis Crompton one of the architects who were part of the London County Council’s architecture team that designed this building. (Dennis along with a few of his colleagues from the project went on to form one of the most influential architectural groups of the 60s – Archigram). Dennis showed their initial ideas and process of its design. Though he was very glad to see the building celebrating its 40th anniversary with much fanfare he reminded us of a time when the building was much neglected and hated by many Londoners. It’s always great to hear an architect talking about an early work that has gradually grown to be liked by most and in his words – “…the more people become familiar with the Hayward, the more they will like it….”

(The building with all its additions for the on going Psycho buildings exhibition looks exactly like it was portrayed in one of the early collages made by Archigram)

Next came one of the most important contemporary artist on the London scene - Anthony Gormley – he shared a completely different yet equally passionate point of view towards the building, that of an artist whose career has been deeply influenced by his exhibiting in its great galleries. He spoke about the hidden space of the building – its vents and shafts.. the space between the gallery and its pyramidal roof lights.. Its cluttered electric rooms and spoke about “..the tension between the building’s basement and its super ego...” As an artist who has worked with the building he insisted that there is a great poetry in its spaces hidden behind what looks like a grumpy bunker. He reminded us what Paul Virilio had once said: “the awe form of modernism is the bunker”!

( The Hayward gallery - A bunker for Art)

The last speaker of the day was - AliceRawsthorn - the ex-director of the Design Museum and design critic for the International Herald Tribune. To summarize her own affection towards the gallery she quoted Philip Johnson, who having seen the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao said: “When a building is this good, who the fuck cares about the art”. To illustrate Hayward gallery’s position in popular culture she equated the building to London. She pointed out how its is eccentric.. layered.. and composed of various features and styles like London itself. And to end she used yet another quote, this time from the director of the Serpentine gallery: ”The Hayward is only a millisecond away from being really cool!!!”

( Like Gormley said : "This building was not build - its cast", I love that you can see the patterns of the wood on the concrete, imprints from the planks used to cast this building)

All in all the talk was a great way to better understand a really great building. A couple of days after the talk I went to the ongoing exhibition titled “Pschyo buildings” And though I really enjoyed many of the installations put up in and on the building none of them could even try to steal the show from the Hayward.

(Inside one of the installations of the Psycho buildings exhibition)

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