Riffing between artists, architects (& writers)

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I write or polish narratives for architects and designers from behind the scenes but when artist friend, Dave Hickson sent a link to MPavilion/Art Monthly Australia Writing Award, I couldn’t resist. It offered a nice change of pace and appealing rewards. The task was to explore one or more aspects of the relationship between art and design today in a proposal of no more than 200 words. Here is my (edited) entry.

As technology empowered architects to create buildings as sculptures — think Gehry, Hadid — the artist within design appeared set for extinction. There seemed no role for the artist beyond adorning public squares or forecourts with gleaming silver things — the same as extinction.

But a smattering of architects has long believed in working with artists. They welcome the artist into their space. They see the artist’s ability to impart rich cultural meaning to projects, and how their skills and knowledge can broaden design using digital media, 3D printing, parametric modelling. Yet no matter how sophisticated the technology, for designers, this interdisciplinary engagement is not about technology but handcraft.

Many of artworks featured in contemporary design are not add-ons and are integral to the structure. There’s a lot happening internationally with kinetic movement in facades. In Australia, some designer-commissioned artworks are not finite expressions. They take the form of plantings or LED and LCD displays. Many of are not add-ons but are integral to the structure.

Some artists ‘riff’ off the design brief receiving little instruction from the designers, and a few collaborate, deeply. Art in design has a heartbeat.

Marian Edmunds

The winner (already chosen) but not announced will have their essay published in Art Monthly, and will present at MPavilion in the Queen Victoria Gardens in St Kilda Road. I was invited to enterMPavilion/Art Month Australia Writing Award in future. I am thinking about developing this and other design ideas as features or papers.

With thanks to: 

Designers: Bates Smart, Michael Rayner of Cox-Rayner and Kevin Scholl of WATG.

Virginia Wilson Art commissions site-specific public artworks for major commercial and residential developments.

Artists: Jamie North,  John Tonkin, Dave Hickson

Marian Edmunds is a writer, editor and journalist formerly with the Financial Times.