Friday, 1 April 2011

Clarity of Thought

I always find it difficult when writing an academic piece to focus my thought, and my "mini-dissertation" (as I like to call it), is no different. At 4500 words, the word count is not (at this point), of major concern. The difficulty I have, is being concise, and linear. I have a tendency to "jump" around, and as such, some of the writing is reading convoluted. This blog post will, hopefully, clear my thought, as I tend to blog "key" pieces of information.

Gillespie, Kidd & Coia

The research is extensive, but the writing is proving difficult. I had an excellent meeting with a member of staff from RCAHMS who provided invaluable insight in to a lot of the background politics of the firm. Understanding the internal dynamics of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia gives understanding to their lasting legacy as such a predominant Modernist architecture firm with a relatively small portfolio of work.

One aspect of this legacy I had not previously considered was the firms very close ties with the Mackintosh School of Architecture (or 'the Mac'), through Jack Coia, Izi Metzstein and Andy MacMillan all (at one point of another) being former alumni and staff. Watters (1997) succinctly explains the relationship in the RCAHMS publication Cardross Seminary - Gillespie, Kidd & Coia and the Architecture of Postwar Catholicism:

"Academic interest in the work of the practice developed further in the early 1990s - a trend which Metzstein and MacMillan, both by then based at the Mackintish School, were well placed to nurture. Here the previous decade's transformation of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia and its key personnel from an active practice into university-basded academic dynasty began to encourage cross-fertilisation between the teaching of present-day architecture and the pursuit of heritage."

This in part almost creates the Myth that is Gillespie, Kidd & Coia, as I've previously stated, one touted by the Mackintosh School of Architecture. I am in no way suggesting the work of GK&C is actually less significant to the dialogue of postwar ecclesiastical architecture in Scotland, however I do feel their work deserves more scrutiny beyond the aforementioned rhetoric and triumphalism. Striking the balance, as an artist, is what I intend to do, and although something I would not normally do within such a short space of words, I want to quote the above RCAHMS publication, as it's refreshing honest account of GK&C work gives weight to my idea of "scrutiny":

Father Foley recalled one occasion in the early 1970s when Jack Coia showed a group of 'wide-eyed architectural students around the building while we mopped up the rain water from the floor'. (Watters, 1997)

This perfectly illustrates the dichotomy of the Modernist Catholic Church (and to a wider extent Modernism in general). A movement which trumpeted functionalism as one of its key aspirations, falling short on this goal. To be fair to GK&C their work is often regarded as a more individualistic (Rodger, 2007) strand of Modernism, and arguably form played as crucial a role in their work as function.

The Concept of Modern Heritage

Again, another area which I've decided to examine more closely, is the idea of Modernism as heritage. I like to band this word around a lot in reference to my own work, but I have not really stopped to consider what it actually means within the context of the Modern Movement. Although my time is limited, I intended to expand on the notion of heritage and my contribution to this as an artist.

I'm going to stop now, as this has helped, but I feel I need to start reading again.

I have neglected the blog of late, but over Easter I hope to do some consolidation posts cover off the key events in March.

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