Subliminal Interference
PIA 23 Sept 2015

Architecture is a strange beast:
It has insides, and it has outsides.
It operates through tactics of total immersion.
In the hectic ‘doing’ of being a practicing architect, as one daily navigates being lawyer, accountant, psychologist, lateral thinker, conflict resolution specialist, designer, teacher, mother, partner, boss and business manager, there is the incredible challenge of maintaining, or even noticing – let alone feeding or critically reading – one’s inner reserves of ideas, thoughts and desires. It is these that at subterranean level inform every design decision one takes.
I am interested, now, in excavating these interiorities, my backstories. What are my subliminal interferences? Which are the anchors and which the outriggers of my spatial intelligence? How would I describe my architectural gut: my microbiome? Why do I despise fashion and branding? Why not be a painter, a sculptor, a poet?
If I were to define Architecture, I would say this: Architecture is not the ‘containment of space’, it always involves the making of a conscious and critical ‘opening of space’.

Since I wrote this long half talk- half poem, I should say:
I think I should have called this Immersion: Tactics of Immersion

I hope to open up some space now, in my head, and in yours:

Shall I tell you about
Immersion –
My background movie
Or as they call it these days, my ‘backstory’ –
A term that kind of confounds me, because
Novels, for example, are ONLY backstories, and poems too –
Aren’t they?
What the hell is a front story?
A newspaper headline
Some snappy shorthand, all
Gossip and glory
A façade?

A great newspaper poster seen on a tree near me – recently –
I laughed.

Its Headline news: Our front-page story:
Fossils in the Mofussil ….

Façade, facades, facadism, facados-miento, cimientos, faschada, fascia, fascismus, fascisti, fasta pasta
Pull another fast one
Je suis fache!
I am brave but losing face, losing face
Skating on the surface of
Thin ice and
The selfie isn’t healthy
I have an unhealthy
Fear of Fakeration, fa fa fa
There are
Too many F’s in here.

IMMERSION does it for me:
On weekends,
I read the FT –

“The other day I heard the expression “moral retard” for the first time. One normally thinks of a different kind of retardation. This a quote from Beppi Grillo, the Italian comedian and leader of the 5 Star Party, which commands at least a quarter of the Italian vote. He should come over here. Moral retards. I think I may have to call Redi – I quite often call Redi, and sometimes have to restrain myself. It seems to me that she provides the only real public space we have – where everyone and anyone can speak. Free space, moderated by a just and wise voice.

Perfect exhibition
Masks imperfect inhibition –
Are those modest blushes or
Layers of concealer?
Un-masked, un-disguised, un-defended
Soft snail, are you a
Front page story, a money shot, a set-piece,
A Page 3 girl
A show pony – but why are we talking about horses?
In a manner of trotting, may we request that you and your building make
A perfect picture, please.

“I remember being blown away in the early 90’s by an article by Ignasi de Sola Morales Rubio. At the time I was reading astrophysics and Gilles Deleuze in random combination while doing a Masters of Architecture at RMIT in Melbourne. Interiority. Everything was busy being an interior.
The article in particular – called ‘Colonization, Violence, Resistance’ – talks about possible strategies of resistance to a contemporary political situation, which of course spoke urgently to my particular history of being a South African.
Following Deleuze, de Sola Morales spoke of inescapable enmeshment within pervasive networks of power, a condition which can only be described as one of total interiority. As he remarked, this seems somewhat like the constant expansion of the Universe. The galaxy, after all, is an interior.

(And I want to say now in brackets: Isn’t the constant expansion of the universe rather fabulously illustrated now by the constant expansion of Social Networks, and our seemingly limitless absorption into them? Thus far only the deep waters of Facebook have claimed me and only in a relatively shallow way, and I feel proudly resistant to Twitter, Tinder, Grinder, and Wonker – )

But before I read all this stuff in Melburne in the early 90’s, my Wits thesis in 1986 was called ‘In the Belly of the Beast’. It seems I was on the same track.

My Wits thesis used collage as a mechanism for design, and for thinking. Thinking about it now, thinking now about why collage fascinated me so much — all through school I made collages on my files and prep-books — I realise that my instinctive draw towards collage may have been because collage manufactures a kind of depth. It makes space. It is able to draw opposites and differences into conversation. It makes new and unexpected interiors out of random given externals.
Kurt Schwitters and his Merzbau… Making collages with detritus – stuff found on the street.
Merzbau, Schmerzbau. It was painful shit, not being properly Dada.
I’d like you to note, now, please, that I was born in black and white.
I operated in a black and white age of photocopies. Before that we had purple roneo-ing machines…. You could get high on the fumes of your Grade 3 handout… Google images delivers in colour these days, and I wonder what my thesis document COULD have looked like…
Cut up crappy photocopies – a fitting reuse strategy, I guess, that embodies the emergency afforded by collage. Montage.
As I look at some of these Cubist paintings assemblages now, these must indisputably be sources for Frank Gehry’s later work. I was madly in love with Frank’s 1980’s house. I am not madly in love with his latest work.
Duchamp and the Large Glass made a most compelling and seductive kind of Cabinet of Curiosities for me – I too, was a compulsive gatherer of found objects – I still have a flattened piece of carburettor, or fan belt, or whatever it is, and a couple of strange reject objects found upon my endlessly fascinating Newtown site.
I was seriously inspired by the idea of collage. I loved Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter’s Collage City – What got me the most about Collage City was his evocation of Nolli’s map of Rome, and it’s absolutely black and white, indisputable demonstration of public space within the city fabric. The city as an interior.
At the same time I was involved with Lloyd Ross of Shifty Records, sharing a lot of time and space with Warrick Sony of the Kalahari Surfers who was a cut-up sound specialist of note. Can you see the reversed earphones around his neck? These were not for listening, but for surreptiously recording.
Nolli and Rowe provided me with the most graphic refutation and proof of the urban failure of Joburg that I could find, and it was this tension of resistance in graphic demonstration, spatial demonstration, that fired my engines.
I crept into the Rand Club one evening after jolling at Jameson’s which was over the road… I leopard crawled below the Security Guard in the back entrance, remembering my mothers’ scathing remarks that “women and jews” were not allowed through these hallowed portals… In the interior of this building I found a world that reminded me of Paris –
Joburg a map of Nolli’s Rome – reversed.

I always tell thesis students that they should revel in their thesis year –
It is their chance to build a bellyful of ideas that will set the tone for the rest of their lives.
I tell them that:
They are free to co-opt everything in their experience – seen, heard, read
To bend it
Shake it
Anyway they want it –
In thesis year
Everything can become relevant – internalised, absorbed
Filtered through the personal poetic – its only
If you read, if you notice
Read it
Get intense, visceralise
Be the centre of your world, whether
Strange attractor or reactor:
Become litmus – coordinator
Strange arranger –

In Melbourne, almost 10 years after my Wits B.Arch thesis, I did a long 10-projector projected project inspired by the Ecstacy of St Teresa – a topic that was put forward to the class by Ashton Raggatt McDougall – a pair of the most inventive and possibly misanthropic architects working then and still working – more madly, perhaps – today.
My project was –again – amazingly, now it seems to me, about interiors, the interior of the universe, the interior of Australia, interior of the earth, (remember my mining town heritage) the interior of structure, of ideas, of self, of one’s sources of inspiration and internal poetics. The project re-inhabited a cemetery in the centre of Melbourne that had become full. A ritual space.
The project worked through 3 lenses:
1 – Appropriation, or Misappropriation of ideas : as I put it, I was looking for “improper connections between ideas” – this has to be a term that can turn you on
2 – Vision – here the ecstatic vision of St Teresa – becomes the open excavation of one’s inspirations, thoughts, sources – a transfigurational state in which ideas transmute from thought to form
3 – the Picturesque – this was a theme throughout my 2 years at RMIT, again brought on by Ashton Raggatt McDougall together with Shane Murray, who is now head of Monash’s new architecture school — I projected the Picturesque here through an idea of concavity: I made concavity a condition of interiority – I wanted to enter the VISCERAL VIEW. I even figured the buildings as meat.

In 1985, in 4th year, I had lived and worked in Paris – a penurious student who was followed about the metro on occasion by sniggers as I made my own collaged clothing out of various bits and pieces. These were some more respectable dresses I made while doing my thesis –
My home-coming project took the form of a 6m long collage. The year was intense, full, difficult, beautiful, full. The good thing about collage is does not have an end. The collage is not a progression.
When I look around the walls of my home and the art that I have bought over the years, I find that a lot of it involves Construction, or assemblage – a form of collage.
It seems clear that the reason collage makes ‘space’ is that collage allows the mind to enter into the spaces between things. Improper connections between ideas make space.

Back in Melbourne, I read De Sola Morales’s term Interiority as Subjectivity. Subject to one’s own perspective, skewed to oneself. Distorted by one’s internal, and most personal poetry.
I did a long project a about single point perspective which involved naked recumbent women – the odalisque as a horizontal skyscraper, to be precise. A horizontal alternative to the tallest building in the world, at that point being proposed in Melbourne by a virile developer called Bruno Grollo.
Anamorphism is the technical term.
I guess in some ways these Melbourne years conspired with a long held conviction of mine that “Externals aren’t Important” since they can be configured any which way by whoever might be looking at any point in time, and looking from any point.
Your building might be an accident, actually. It could be configured, make sense from one, two or three points of view, only.
What liberation!

What is it about belonging?

In 2015, brands and beards interest me less – tattoos are tat and
The selfie simply cannot be healthy –

Recently, apparently, the dreaded word TREND has taken a bend
“A dirty word”
Says Anna Wintour
“Now, it’s all about Idiosyncracy”.
By that I take it mean she means
Individuality –
Well, this is a piece of riveting frontline news, and
Here we go again.

What is it about belonging?

Has uncontrollable dimensions:

Space is multiple. Quadruple and quintuple.
Sextuple, so
I’m not too interested in surface treatments, and sometimes I am less than interested in facades
Even of my own making
Unless they are
Speaking in multiples, a
Party line
Engaged? Too often static.
You’re breaking up!
Let’s go live,
Conversation feeds
Forwards and back
Shade, sun, let’s speak
Section, or
Back to front
In time —-
Making a point, an investigation, a reference
Unless they are —

I quote Leon van Schaik – whom some of you may remember:
This excerpt is from his latest book, “Practical Poetics in Architecture”, a copy of which I received the other day:
“Architecture is a practice that arises from spatial thinking. Like everything in our material culture, every act of architecture has its poetics, that is to say a ‘reading’ specific to its conception and realisation. To understand this poetics is to understand individual and communal histories in space and the values these have imbued in each architect.
“It is also to understand the political positon of every act of architecture because, unlike more autonomous arts, architecture acts upon those who build it and those who occupy it….
“Without this understanding, architecture struggles to register its power to help society in its pursuit of wellbeing, and is relegated to being a symbolic backdrop to transitory acts of consumption”.

So you see
It is impossible to read much beyond the spectacle when the only symbolism is consumption.

I love Leon van Schaik, and I thank god that he headed RMIT when I was there.
He has made and continues to make
A bellyful.
I am terrified that Johannesburg is really only becoming a symbolic backdrop
To transitory acts of consumption:
Sometimes I get despondent, because often here
In my city of back and front stories
Architecture remains un-thought, un-investigated, under critiqued.
This city of miners has forgotten how to mine
Mine my meaning, mine
It’s the headline news:
Fossils in the Mofussil.

You would think that here
We would be dancing the dance of the 7 veils,
Shaking our butts to
The sexy requisites of SECURITY.
These apartheid-given layers of boundary walling, secondary fencing, covered patios, shuttered walls, booms and beams
OH: Beams and berms, buttressed bums, boom-tastic
The Boomtown FatCats
A slow strip-tease
ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!! Alarm rings in the distance!! Nyow nyow nyow!!!! Bee bar bee bar, call the cops
You have just missed the capture of a giant

The thief in the night is Theory
And Policy:

What if the Council told you that you could only make a wall around your building if you offered 3 public functions??? Just imagine what you could do………………urinal / bench / light / bath

In Mandalay people still shower on street corners…………

If I’m not to go mad
We have the wonderful world of Oz
Right here at our fingertips
Can’t we scale the walls of
Our pissy paranoias, our pruriently pathetic Pavlovian politics, our blinkered bling
To Riff
Upon some far more potent spatial ifs –
What if we mined
Our Wonderfully World Class Series of Interiors –
If you think of the city as an interior, the very conception of
Public Space is changed –
AS I have oft been heard to say, our only public space
Seems to have devolved onto the
Pavement, the Road surface and the Traffic Island –

Urban emergency, cutting edge blunt but still
Bee bar, neow neow and all that, our
Connective tissue’s weak
Out there it’s dry and bleak
Old and
Young bones glare in the sun, I’m done
With pretence:
Façade and fence conspire to
Keep Them out.
Generically sick
Us and Them.

Maboneng is a thing if you agree that
The City is a Stage –
Dress up corner in the Nursery was such fun
And the props!
Curating, making, make believe, it’s all good, right?
In my neighbourhood what’s more,
Formerly isolated, (20 years we are from Bob’s)
We are now
3 minutes from dinner or a bar –
No chance of a roadblock
And breathe through this

Paying it forward, playing it back
Promotional deluge, Instagram frenzy
Fashion, money, bla bla
Honey, old’s alright?
I can’t help think that a
Selfie isn’t healthy.

Tweed clad knickerbockered gentlemen with side partings ride the streets of Maboneng on their bicycles, monocles dangling from waistcoat pockets. I suppose it’s a laugh. Its fashiontastic.
I suppose Maboneng is a laugh. I just don’t find it that funny.
I am tempted to write a poem muddling the words Gentrification and Generification, a Brandenburg Symphony – but I won’t. Not yet.
Once I saw a wannabe graffiti-ist, especially travelled on the night train from Durban, being warned off by Maboneng Security: “But man, I thought it was cool to like tag here”?

Private city. A contradiction in terms, one would think?

In terms of straight facades-
Circa is the only South African reference I can readily crank up
A critical incursion into a
Terribly broken and incoherent stretch of Jan Smuts
Façade fence façade fence façade fence –
Flat made round
Circa succeeds at all levels:
Constructively critical, it is beautiful too.

“Poetics came into use in architecture when Gaston Bachelard’s 1957 book The Poetics of Space was published….
Leon van Schaik continues: “ Architects need to establish their own understandings of the roots and origins of the projects that they create.
Unless creative elites – including architects- articulate the ways in which their mental space frames the poetics that their work embodies, borders are intensified, as are the dangers of self parody. This leads to architecture that evokes stock responses rather than engagement.”

Beacause I need to justify my sometimes unpalatable opinions I will quote another eminent thinker who backs me up to the hilt: Achille Mbembe, on the topic of Crises of Imagination: “ in an absence of imagination, we are simply doomed to repeat ourselves”…..

Beauty is intrinsic –
It has uncontrollable dimensions
As we do, tucked inside our skins
Around us our surroundings wheel
Around us worlds expand and contract, reel and
We dream: repetitive dream spaces, cities, places
We read, we watch
Who was it that said without us to see, there would be nothing to say, to see?
Spaces are felt in moving moments –
Moments, moving –
I never understood that term til I googled it yesterday
But this it.
Space moves around you and you and you
Around me, and in its extents, it makes We

Dynamic spaces are the most difficult to photograph. The single point perspective rarely does justice to the complexities and subtleties of perception in space – or in space and time, within both of which we are in perpetual motion, or prolonged stasis…

“While the majority of what is built today is erected mindlessly in the train of global capital, most universities are islands of architectural endeavour, seeking ways to express and to house their current understandings of their missions…”

Leon. Again. Curator of the city.

Melbourne gabbles fast in façade language, faster
Unafraid to make awkward, they’re unafraid to make beauty, to
Talk shit, converse, make nasty in-jokes, conduct a ritual burning
Or two
Interrogation is not a half-time club
So it moves.
Practically poetic, frankly emetic, it must
Play with its prejudices.
Conduct an auto-da-fe of its history and futures
It must experiment, risk its life and reputation
Become eccentric, become ugly – be
God, “you’re so critical” –
A position can only be its own if forged
Not in forgery-

Hear my plea:
“Let’s forge an identity
Not serve the existing homogeneity”?

What a proposition:
Architectural bravado –
I want to be an Architectural Brave
With feathers in my hair
Dressing up has never been my bag, at least since 3rd year – and
In spite of the old poem.

Who am I, over the hill now, to talk about
Fashion? Youth culture, or what matters?

Who are we? Who were we, and
Who are we now?
Perhaps only a selfie will tell?

I was born in black and white…

In the beginning… she said
There was the word and
That word made light, time and space –
Definitions, Words and Phrases
Make space for me.

Tindered, grindered and wonked – indifferent to these
“The dance of 7 Veils” makes me want to draw.
Ideas in words, metaphors, make me want to draw.
Translation into space.

To think means to experiment and to problematize
Knowledge, power and the self are the triple root of a problematization of thought
Thinking is carried out in the interstices between seeing and speaking
Thinking as linking: there is chance, the dice-throw – and thinking always comes from the outside-
Thinking takes on new figures – it draws out particular features, links events and on each occasion it
Invents a series that moves from the neighbourhood of one feature to another:
Gilles Deleuze is spatial – he makes thinking spatial –
He has always done it for me, as has Rem:

 “An area resembling a substratum of the city”

“What are your supple lines, what are your fluxes and thresholds? “
“One elaborates a punctual system or didactic representation with the aim of making it snap – of sending a tremor through it”
“ The point now marks the proliferation of the line, or its sudden deviation – its acceleration, its slowdown, its furor or agony”….
…”in order to float a soundbloc down a created, liberated line, in order to unleash in space this mobile and muted soundbloc….”
As an architect, as in Iyengar Yoga, I would like to make this my first duty.
.. the thin dog is running in the road – this dog is the road……….”
“What are your rigid segments, your binary and over-coding machines? For even these are not given to you ready-made…. we are not simply divided up by binary machines of class, sex or age: there are others which we constantly shift, invent without realizing it……”

My mind likes to move along lines, to take the line of flight
The plane of immanence or consistency tears from form particles
Between which there are only now relationships of speed and slownessses
Molecular fluxes, Thresholds of quanta –
Becomings and micro-becomings don’t have the same rhythms as
Family History:

To read, to run
Run, Rabbit, Run
To fly

I am into Rapid Thought Transport:
Raptor, visceral, I will seize upon an idea, I am my hand and my hand must
Move to
Draw – Both guns at once
Short circuiting the imagination
Sometimes I don’t think too much.
I bet my friends would disagree, but I think that I mean that –
As George Bernard Shaw once said
“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place” –
I don’t force some outsides to engage too much with my insides
Unless I want to
I can’t collaborate, wait
I’m a shorting circuit
I rely on my intuition, my
Gut as powerful as brain.
Which I guess means I privilege my insides
My ideas
An insider, am I, an outsider, an outrider
Of my own insides
I’m more into my interior space
And my own Microbiome
Than yours –
It’s biological
Cruel, illogical
I do this for me.

My kind of architect is an activist –

“A concept is not a static idea like a brick that can be thrown through a window, it is rather a vector, a circumstance, an act”

I will always find and take
The line of flight

My mother is a Rationalist and she has to a large degree
Seeded my internal garden, the
Garden of my mind and gut
My Microbiome – My
Helicobacter, my Lactobacillus, my
Emotional and spatial memory, history, my intelligence
Come from my mother but are watered by
My experience, diluted and forged on the anvil of
My 51 years – her 75
She has taught me that
Amongst other things
The post mortem can only be verified by the self, not by her
Or by others –

“My god, this is insalubrious” says my mother, up in Joburg for a week or so. We are driving the kids to school in my usual early morning frenzy though potholes, dead rats, various degrees of detritus and fresh-faced freshly glistening Vaselined-up school-walking kids. My beloved Yeoville is a mess: people are living their everyday lives in amongst rotting buildings, beautiful remnants, defunct systems, rubbish strewn streets. I hear my mother’s silent voice:
“Do these things equate to a rotting people”?
Whisper to self: When you say “people” what do you mean?
Societal, Political. Spatial.
These are Gideon Mendel’s photos of Yeoville in the 80’s, when I lived there. Can you see demonstrated here an incredibly level of racial mixing, of co-existence? Yeoville was cosmopolitan in the most whole sense of the word.
Judith’s Paarl: Here we are, living in a village. See the swept earth forecourt, every plant chopped down for firewood. The school ride. Up Stewart Drive. Hitchhikers waiting at the base of the hill. “Shall we pick up these kids this morning?” I enquire in my best voice. Backseat chorus: “Nooooo, please mom”. In panicked voices: “we’re late, mom!”. I insist and when we drop them off in Yeoville and normal chat resumes. Uh oh. Not good.

IMMERSION does it for me.
On weekends I read the FT.

I grew up in Parkhurst with my mother and my little sister.
Parkhurst was safe, small. The smell of the flowering hedge as I walked back from Greenpark Nursery School in the tight handhold of Winnie, our abundantly well-upholstered nanny, embodies my feeling of security, my sense of place.
Funnily, the same hedge borders my studio today, albeit growing on the neighbour’s side of the wall, and in flowering season I am slammed back into my 3 year old self, without fail. I must google this hedge because I still don’t know what it is – so sweet, so potent.
Until I went to Big School at 5 years old, my Parkhurst was defined by its stand-alone orange face-brick bungalows (my mother called the colour apricot, like Koo apricot jam, I thought), standard rosebushes, stilted planting, a dinged up kind of frosted glass in the front door, half-moon steel windows, corrugated iron roofs and straight-as-a-die slasto garden paths. Every morning the electric milk van came nnneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee up the road to replace your empties: bringing silver tops to be crumpled off voluptuously curved milk bottles, delivered fresh to the doorstep every morning.
Wallpaper in the inside. Bamboo and panda bears. Skating couples in my bedroom. Strange grey and blue drips that I used to pick off my mother’s bedroom wallpaper when she wasn’t looking. Matchstick parquet and vinyl tiles. We had a slasto chimney and a Becker’s heater, coal deliveries in the winter. Vast dirty McPhails’ trucks arrived with men covered in coal dust hanging off the sides, handkerchiefs tied over their heads with foursquare knots. The coal cellar. Driving Winnie home to Diepkloof in the winter. Coal smog over Soweto. Blackened brick houses in endless lines. Vegetation nil. Miles in the Mini. Afterwards we played rummy on the carpet. Drank hot chocolate in front of the Becker’s. Guilty because we knew. Glad that we were home. Safe. Warm. Two little girls and our Mummy. Two things:
Thinking that we were safe.
Realising that we were White.

White, white, white
Too many

These days, I suppose, people see these little orange houses as rotten teeth in the mouth of fashionably fantastic Parkhurst –

Dear Koo, these familiar old teeth protrude from
The sunken gum,
Sunset glow fades in sparse gardens –
Unabridged and Unbraced
They rebuke the
Walled cubic confections of Joburg’s middling
Middle classes
Loose tooth rattles and cracks
Skeleton Gorge
The call rises
From narrow bedroom passages:
Bring out your dead
of the Mofussil…

Village, Village of mine, Deep Village, Village Deep
“You’re mine, you’re mine –
You’re a limpet mine” –

At the age of 5, I discovered another Parkhurst, and in the process I discovered another architecture. In my Grade 1 class at Roedean was Carey Duncan, the youngest daughter of Sheena and Neil Duncan. They lived down the road from our 17th street, at 45 22nd Street Parkhurst, and my mother and Sheena knew each other. Sheena was the head of the Black Sash, and Neil was an architect who was also a fabulous landscape gardener, sculptor, maker of tapestries and painter of ostrich eggs. My mother was an architect, and was also a member of the Black Sash. Sheena and my mother had both been at Roedean, so there was quite a connection. Neil did a lot of architectural work at Roedean. I spent a huge amount of time there.
The first time I went to Carey’s house, I came home to our modest abode, kicked the chair in the hall and demanded of my mother as to “just when we would be moving out”..?
This house was absolutely formative in my architectural life.
When Neil and then Sheena died, I arranged to buy the property, and make it Sectional Title so that the garden canremain open and unbuilt upon forever. It is the last remaining river-spanning garden in the suburb, and rarely beautiful.
I have recently altered the original house for its new owners.
I was particularly conscious of what the reaction of the Duncan daughters might be to the remodeling of their family home, and I am extremely glad and relieved to report that they have seen and love it. Where the house has changed most it remains uncannily legible – parts and elements are recognizable, although differently deployed: quite some conceptual dynamite was necessary, which is difficult when you are emotionally tethered to a place.
The Duncans and I walk around the house wearing X Ray specs, as it were.
It’s both new and familiar:
Spatial correspondences and structures that were hitherto concealed are revealed, and I hope that its energies are released, now, to new lives.
I have also recently altered Roedean, whose sublime beauty also entered my spatial matrix via the umbilicus. Its labyrinthine Baker spaces shaped my synapses between the ages of 5 and 16, and whether in acquiescence or rebellion, it snapped me into position. Neil had alos built quite a lot here, so my languages were in certain sort of synch. This is the Maths Centre, which we completed 2 years ago.
It works around the short cut. It is an urban project, essentially. It untangles and recasts the tangled conurbation that has grown up around Baker’s original building dated 1902. My daughter was rehearsing the techniques of Egyptian Mummification in the car on the way to school this morning. “Mom! They extracted THE BRAIN THROUGH THE NOSE! Yuck!” It is poetic. Brain extracted through the nose, the Maths Centre opens new vistas, makes new connections, and recasts old elements in a contemporary frame.
I am equally relieved to say the everyone’s X Ray specs work – Old Girls aged between 95 and 17 get it, see it, feel it. I’m glad.
I am happy to be an architect.
Why not a painter, a sculptor?
Much as I adore both, its just too hard to be the maker of an outside thing, the wielder of a brush ‘pon a canvas….. a maker of surfaces, illusions. I find it terrifying to make anything that, quite simply, is able to look so good as to be believable. Whether abstract of figurative is irrelevant. How to make a world flatly balanced upon a canvas?
Amazing, and miraculous, and terribly, terribly difficult. Too difficult. It’s the same with writing. I simply could not be a novelist. I am consumed with admiration for novelists.
My father was a bird artist. His surfaces were impeccable, his birds and brushwork unflappable. That doesn’t really explain my fear of painting, although it may explain my terror of being in the same room as a creature with feathers ….
Richard Serra’s vastly enterable sculpture is still about gorgeous surface, unattainable shelter, hints of home, endless passage. Rachel Whiteread makes space made solid. A tragedy: the panoply of spatial perception is locked out. Ai Wei-Wei does this too.
When it comes to design, we are all balancing acts. We enact that fine line between in and outside. Ideas, thoughts, political position, feelings: these things meet on a moving line: that is the line that is made by the pen, in the hand, following the mind. It is a line of flight, and it can be dangerous. Mostly to others.
I am ever on the boundary, opening the doors. Shape and space and structure forms around the interior me who desires a view – many views. I am a claustrophobic.
Inside out and outside in, most of all what I wish for my architecture is to heighten the experience of place, heighten the experience of space, of time, of self, of us.

Here is a last quote from Leon:

“In the Athropocene, architecture turns to capturing nature. Here we will be intensely aware of the passage of light, of navigating through ravines and escarpments, of following undulating hills, of inhabiting a coastal area and of living in a forest. Within a generation, 75% of the world’s population will be living in cities. Architecture –paradoxically- will provide them with most of their experience of the wold, the seemingly un-made.”

Who are we?
Where are we?
And where are we going?

And I suppose that is what a painter, a sculptor, a poet, a writer would say too. No matter the place and time.

Thank you –