Thursday, 25 November 2010

Heroic Modernism

St Brides - interior

As mentioned in my previous post I visited the Glasgow School of Art Archives to view the Gillespie, Kidd & Coia architectural plans, drawings and photographs of St. Bride's, East Kilbride. The GK&C archive material is extensive, as the firm gifted a practice worth of material to GSA in 2001, so I only tackled one building, St. Bride's. That said, I spent all of Monday afternoon sifting through folders and folders of tattered tracing paper like drawings. This is one of my favourite parts of research.

I bought a couple digital scans and took around a hundred photographs of the plans. Unfortunately due to copyright issues, I cannot publish this imagery online, well, I don't think I can. GSA has an online archive on Flickr with lovely big watermarks stamped over every images (including some photographs of St Bride's), so I don't think they would be to happy with un-watermarked digital scans of their archive going up online.

I digress, the plan for the plans is to model the church in 3D. It's a bit of re-hash of a technique I employed last year (measure the plans, create in SketchUp, export to Maya) but one which I want to develop using another exemplar. St Bride's provides an additional challenge, as unlike QEIIS, I want to model the interior, to explore the more sculptural elements of the building.

Why am I modelling the building? It's part research, part output. When you measure from plans, create a 3D model, you get to know a building very intimately. You understand where it works and where it doesn't. The use of 3D software in the modelling process (as opposed to say making a physical model) is allows me to manipulate and play with the form. I explore some of the modernist ideologies the building encapsulates by working with it conceptually - for example lighting the building in a particular fashion. 3D tends to work to towards the goal of hyper-realism, I do not. In a sense, I want to "make strange", in the case of St. Bride's, something which already exists.

Beyond making strange, I'm still exploring the notion of modernism ideologies in Scottish modernism. In my previous post I commented on GK&C adopting modernism as a style, which, in reading the introduction of the book Gillespie Kidd & Coia: Architecture 1956 - 1987 (DJCAD Library link) is confirmed by the editor, Johnny Rodger (2007):

Unlike most other architects involved in the massive social generation programme at the time, Gillespie, Kidd & Coia had the opportunity to experiment with such individualistic, expressionistic and heroic designs because they had a very particular principal client, namely the Roman Catholic Church.

I don't know why I've got the hump about this, but I think the notion of modernism being part of a greater social movement sits better with me. I could see what Basil Spence was doing with the Hutchesontown C Development, but I'm struggling with St Bride's. We can celebrate the architecture, the form, and the structure, but there was also something more poetic about the demise of modernism and the placeholders it left - in the form of buildings - of a future that has still not transpired (and probably never will).

All is not lost. Gillespie, Kidd & Coia churches did employ some traits of modernist ideology in their buildings, for example, a consideration of light (although I would argue this is a little over-hyped) and space. They were not bound by the weight of architectural traditions, and, like other modernist architects, set a bold new agenda.

In some senses a church is a place which should inspire worship, and Gillespie, Kidd & Coia employ a sculptural opulence which came in direct conflict with the materials used (i.e. brick, concrete, etc.).

Less thinking, more practical outcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment