ART, DESIGN AND CULTURAL REPORTAGE: NEW YORK — LONDON
4 July 2010

For the Architecture Festival in London the  V&A hosted seven buildings amongst  some of the most impressive collection rooms in the museum. Nineteen architects were originally invited to submit proposals for the project, curated by Abraham Thomas, to create spaces that examined refuge and retreat. All of the buildings are accessible to the surprise of visitors- The Fujimori Beetle House rocks every time one of the allocated six spaces is climbed into. The buildings are both secretive and bold in presence. Studio Mumbai Architects built ‘In Between Architecture’ in the Casts Court, a space full of enormous figures and replicas. The building camouflages itself with a divoted plaster treatment, distinguished only stylistically yet remaining unobstrusive and affectionate towards the looming study replicas of David and company.

Studio Mumbai Architects in the Cast Courts

Cast Courts with SMA

David

From the inside

Interior with plaster cast tree

SMA Cast Courts

Terunobu Fujimori’s Beetle House was hosted in the Medieval & Rennaissance Room. The structure, in keeping with Fujimori’s style, possesses many dreamlike and spiritual sensitivities. This one in particular is a close replica of another Beetle House that he created in Japan, spanning two tree’s in the forrest. He built the structure from pine trees, and the exterior was charred onsite in the museum. The interior is grained with smaller bits of the charred wood, adorned with sparse belongings, a small bicycle to represent transport to the home, and a teaset designed by the Danish artist Malene Hartmann Rasmussen. Fujimori, since the opening, has hosted several tea ceremonies ( for six) in the miniscule structure. The whimsical nature of the structure is further enhanced by the wooden medieval spiral-staircase-to-nowhere, and the menacing  grid of clay heads mounted onto the nearby brick wall.

Terunobu Fujimori's Beetle's House

Beetle's House in the Medieval & Renaissance Galleries

Descent

Malene Hartmann Rasmussen with her teaset designed for the Beetle House

Charred Walls

Foot Traffic

In the John Madejski Garden lived a literal treehouse designed by Helen & Hard Architects from Stavanger, Norway. The house, titled ‘Ratatosk’ was built from splayed trees, becoming more basket-like and woven as the structure developed in height.

Ratatosk in the John Madejski Garden

Ratatosk

Ratatosk Proposal Model

At the bottom of the National Art Library stairs lived the “Ark” built by Rintala Eggertsson Architects from Oslo and Bodo, Norway. The building allowed three people in at a time to browse books at leisure. The books themselves acted as the interior walls, spine-in, and also as the exterior shell of the building, striating the structure with faded pages.

Ark designed by Helen & Hard

Reader

Ark Detail

Interior

From the entrance to the National Art Library

Top Floor

The gooooorgeous National Art Library

On the second floor entering the main architecture galleries lived the Inside/ Outside Tree designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects from Tokyo. This was a large faceted structure of plexi-glass which created a semi-enclosed looking glass for one viewer.

Inside Outside Tree

Inside/ Outside

Sou Fujimoto Architects

by Melissa Gamwell

14 December 2009

For the first term project at the Royal College of Art we were asked to choose an object from the Victoria & Albert Museum’s new ceramic gallery, create a replica and produce an interpretation. Nearly a week after considering hundreds of objects, which are displayed in a stunning strand of spaces on the third floor, I finally landed on a French porcelain cosmetics jar, originating from a factory in Mennecy, outside of Paris in pre-revolutionary 17th century France. My initial attraction was due to its hundreds of seemingly identical flowers coating the surface. Any object oriented between the typologies of industrial production and delicate craftsmanship usually catches my eye, and this piece in particular, despite my feeling that it was too simple of an object ( which I now retract entirely), became my focus for the past 8 weeks.

  Cosmetics Jar, Mennecy, France, 1755. Soft paste porcelain with hand-pressed decoration(left) Mennecy II, London, 2009. Slipcast porcelain, casting wax, graphite, plaster(right)

Cosmetics Jar, Mennecy, France, 1755. Soft paste porcelain with hand-pressed decoration. Approx 16 cm x 13cm(left) Mennecy II, London, 2009. Slipcast porcelain, casting wax, graphite, plaster. Approx 28cm x 18cm (right)

Aside from the technical challenges I was particularly interested in the life of such an object and its user. This jar would have been part of a set, living on an impressive vanity where the ritual of beautification would occur. Both the 17th century french royalty and the bourgeois court were heavy subscribers to the cosmetics industry. Ointments and powders were used to make the skin appear more fair and white, which was a visual proclamation of the luxury of service, situated well beyond a sun-cast, agrarian means of living. Despite the privilege, cosmetics at the time used arsenic as an ingredient, which lead to skin disfigurements and fatalities.

I love that an object can possess such a dichotomy, sourcing beauty and disfigurement, and inherently also be a decorative particle of another surface. When developing an interpretation, my focus was derived from the temporal quality of cosmetics as a surface device, and how it might integrate an object abstractly with a person and their environment.

The form itself became an exaggeration of the original Mennecy jar, but now coated in a series of residual materials that will fade and deteriorate on the vase, while making marks on the person and their habitat. Consequently the object will become a record of its use, questionably more unsightly or constantly cleaner, more deteriorated or progressively beautiful with age.

Here is a visual time line of the project showing varying stages of the process.

First attempts at throwing porcelain

First attempts at throwing porcelain

The original jar and lid would have first been thrown in a soft-paste porcelain on a wheel, then turned by hand to create the decorative marks and shape. The flowers are hand made and immediately applied.  For my attempt I experimented with different templates to accommodate the form of the original, and also created a plaster tool to aid in the production of the flowers.

ThrowingSamples_vs03

Base form with and without floral application

Original Mennecy Jar ( left) and replica ( right)

Original Mennecy Jar ( left) and replica ( right)

Details of the replica object

Details of the replica object

One of my earlier reactions to the form and use of decoration was to invert the expectation of flourish by creating the texture/subject/interest on the inside of the vessel. While I was also contemplating the final direction of my interpretation, I made a test study for this concept ( which was also used as a glaze test). I will definitely be developing this concept further for another project called secret fauna@ secretfauna.com

Inverted Mennecy, London, 2009. Hard-paste porcelain. Hand applied flowers and horses.

Inverted Mennecy with hand applied flowers and horses. Hard-paste porcelain. Approx 13cm x 9 cm

Horses_vs02

Detail

Detail

Detail

Below are some sketches that were made from the original thrown forms which began to dictate the forms of the final interpretation. These were thrown spontaneously  and after living with them in my studio  I began to see them as small sketches of how I might go forward.

Thrown sketches

Thrown sketches

This led to more refined forms turned in plaster for casting.

Turned plaster forms

3 form developments in plaster

Porcelain Casts

Porcelain Casts

Porcelain casts and color sampling

Porcelain casts and color sampling

Porcelain casts

Porcelain casts

When considering materials to coat the surface of the vases, I experimented with colors and textures that I felt had a notion of cosmetics and that historically related to objects and object-making. One of my first thoughts was to use red wax because it  reminded me of the body, blood & femininity. It also works as a nod to lipstick & rouges.  I was very attracted to the residual quality of wax, in that despite the color, if you are to touch it, you end up repelling other kinds of matter, rather than obtaining a visual mark. Contrary to that I also started testing graphite mixed with binders, which makes it a bit harder and slightly less transferable, reminiscent of an eyeshadow or pencil. Finally I tested plaster with different gradients of tint, to reference a finely pressed powder.

Porcelain sample dipped in wax

Porcelain sample dipped in wax

Tinted plaster swatches and porcelain samples dipped in plaster

Tinted plaster swatches and porcelain samples dipped in plaster

Porcelain samples dipped in varying consistencies of liquid graphite

Porcelain samples dipped in varying consistencies of liquid graphite

Final prototypes:

Slip cast porcelain with wax, plaster and graphite coatings

Slip cast porcelain with wax, plaster and graphite coatings

Graphite and plaster transfer

Graphite and plaster transfer

ModelVase_vs02

habitats

FinalPrototype_vs02

Detail

Here is an article about the renovations of the new V&A ceramic galleries:

http://www.septemberindustry.co.uk/?p=2985

The Anish Kapoor exhibit:

http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/anish-kapoor/