Brief 2a

Project 2a. Sampling An Encounter

Thomas Streuth, 'Art Institute of Chicago,' Illinois, 1990

Matt DeTurck, 'Joelle & Fritz find furniture,' Ikea Warehouse, Virginia, 2007

Continuing with our four reasons for designing (appropriated from Orwell) we reach the third, historical impulse:

“(The) desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for posterity”.

This second brief is a thorough exploration into how existing repositories are used now, in order to make a proposal for how they might be used in future. It is a process of brief development through qualitative and quantitative research, using direct observation, active engagement and comparative analysis to firstly gain an understanding of an existing situation, and secondly describe a brief for a new situation. At the end of this process you will be an expert on your institution, its collection, its spaces for viewing and storing and its potential role in Swindon.

You will develop a brief for a 12,000 sq.m building, or collection of buildings, on a site in Swindon that will accommodate a publicly-accessible repository for your London-based institution.

2a. Sampling an encounter – the viewer and the artefact
The starting point of the brief will be a series of carefully observed 1:12 detailed drawings of an encounter between a visitor and an artefact. The drawings should be precisely observed and illustrate the relationship between viewer, object and room at a specific moment. They should have the narrative impact of a photograph, an instant in time, a captured encounter with its own story to tell. You should consider the full sensory experience of the encounter, illustrating forms, materials, light and texture. How do you draw the condensed breath of a careful visitor on a chilled glass display case? Or the warmth of reflected daylight on a marble bust? Or the rub of a sweaty finger that shines a bronze foot? Start with a monotone 2D technical drawing style. This may evolve, using tone and collage, to enhance key aspects of the encounters. The drawings should precisely show the edges of the space in which the encounter happens and demonstrate an understanding of both construction and servicing. This does not mean using diagrammatic conventions but drawin in relevant details e.g. fixings, grilles, lighting systems. Consider how you have varying densities of detail on the drawing, using detail to draw attention to certain key moments.

The series of 1:12 drawings of an existing condition should include encounters between viewer and artefact in:
1. IKEA, New Haven
2. the Furniture Study, Yale University Art Gallery (site visit 2pm, Monday 12th September)
3. the viewing spaces of your London-based institution
4. the storage spaces of your London-based institution
5. a relevant precedent you have visited in London or New Haven

In addition to your detailed drawings you are to produce a professional-standard book that:
(a) captures your research into your public repository (developed with your repository colleague)
(b) describes the brief for its new building or collection of buildings

You are to become an expert on your public repository, to enable you to understand its needs, desires and aspirations for a new building. Every institution has a story of how it was created, based upon memory, evidence, truth and falsity. The story of your institution must be researched in parallel with drawn investigations. The wider your investigations, the richer the story. You should research and analyse its history, values, purpose, collections, spaces and audiences. You should obtain technical drawings of its existing structures and consider the relationship between institution, viewing spaces and building spaces. The content you produce will be analytical text, select imagery and insightful comparative analysis. Much of this work is desktop research, done from afar.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest public repositories are as significant for meeting, eating, flirting, hiding, drinking and schmoozing as they are for viewing and storing. On the field trip you will have the opportunity to witness your public repository in use and gain real insight into the actual relationship between institution and building – what are these spaces actually used for? You are encouraged to use the techniques advocated by the Venturi Scott Brown “Learning from…” studios, namely:

1. Precise mappings of form and use, with statistical and image support
2. Rigorous methodology for taking and presenting photographs that capture form, character and use
3. Written and drawn observations of visitors, use and events
4. Active engagement with users (curators, viewers, visitors, guards, etc) – interviews, meetings, chance encounters

This will form a sound platform for you to consider the potential activities your new building may need to accommodate, reflecting actual use rather than imagined.

The brief you have been set is very loose – approx. 12,000 sq.m of accommodation for a publicly-accessible repository. You are to use your research, observations, site visits and opportunities to meet with curators to develop a more specific brief for your new building. This should be led by consideration of the collection, its storage requirements and the potential encounters between visitors and artefacts. Every opportunity to gain expert knowledge on both the collection and the precise conditions of its storage and display should be grasped. It will also be significantly influenced by the nature and needs of the site which we will explore with Brief 2b.


On viewing spaces
BENNETT, TONY, The birth of the Museum; History, theory, politics, Routledge, 1995
GAYFORD, MARTIN & WRIGHT, KAREN (eds.), The Penguin Book of Art Writing, Viking, 1998
LOG 20: Curating Architecture, Fall 2010
OBRIST, HANS-ULRICH & BOVIER, LIONEL (eds.), A Brief History of Curating, JRP Ringier, 2008
O’DOHERTY, BRIAN, Inside the White Cube, The Ideology of the Gallery Space, University of California Press, 1986
VON OSTEN, MARION, Politics beyond the White Cube, pp207-210, in BLUNDELL JONES, PETRESCU AND TILL, Architecture and Participation, Routledge, 2005

On archiving
COMAY, REBECCA (ed.), Lost in the Archives, Alphabet City, 2002
DERRIDA, JACQUES, Archive Fever, University of Chicago, 1998
ELSNER, JOHN & CARDINAL, ROGER (eds.), The Culture of Collecting, Reaktion Books, 1994
MEREWETHER, CHARLES (ed.), The Archive, Whitechapel Art Gallery and MIT Press, 2006

On cultural memory
AYNSLEY, BREWARD AND KWINT (eds.), Material Memories: Design and Evocation, Berg, 1999
CRIMP, DOUGLAS, On the Museum’s Ruins, MIT Press, 1995
SAMUEL, RAPHAEL, Theatres of Memory: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture v. 1, Verso Books, 1996
SAMUEL, RAPHAEL, Theatres of Memory: Island Stories – Unravelling Britain v. 2, Verso Books, 1999
SMITHSON, ROBERT, Some Void Thoughts on Museums, Arts Magazine, 1967

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