Amy Knight is a London-based arts writer. Having gained a Masters degree with distinction in Art History and a first class BA in Illustration from the University of the Arts London, she has written for publications including Aesthetica Magazine, Amelia's Magazine, Mix Future Interiors and 'Sup Magazine, as well as trend research and writing for Dom Pérignon, M&S and Condé Nast. With specialist knowledge of late-Victorian British painting, Amy has a keen interest in everything from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Byzantine architecture to cutting-edge contemporary art and graphic design. She currently covers all arts and media news, reviews and a dedicated blog for WAN, and will be launching a new independent art magazine early in 2012.
- 400m Imperial Tower designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill
- Interview: Jenni Reuter
- Q&A(rchitect): A discussion on how emerging architects see the future of our profession
- Souta de Moura defies critics and accepts Israel’s Wolf Prize
- Israel and the Architectural Narrative
- High-Performance Facades: Performance Attributes – What to Consider & Measure
- Interview: Peter Rich
- The Face of the Future: Façade Engineering and Environmental Performance
Japanese architectural practice MoNo have created two artworks in memory of those affected by the devastating Tohoku earthquake and ensuing tsunami that struck Japan in March last year. The architects Fumiaki Nagashima and Mami Nagashima Maruoka exhibited the work at two sites already of local significance, respectively a historical residence and a shrine, imbuing them with further gravity through their connection with this unparalleled natural disaster.
‘Snow Tree and Snow City’ was designed for a Christmas art exhibition at the close of 2011 to signify the end of this year of ‘profound sorrow’ for Japan, the architects explain. It is set within the historical Yagishita family residence in Yokohama city; a family who flourished in the copper-iron trade in the late nineteenth-century Meiji era. The architects transformed one of the traditional rooms into a ‘Western Style zone’ for this Christmas exhibition, and themed their work on Yokohama as it would have been when this residence was originally built – cloaked in snow. With sunlight reflecting from its pure white surfaces during the day and LEDs diffusing a warm orange glow across the miniature city by night, this is a place of purity and quiet contemplation.
MoNo’s ‘Shining Tree in a Sacred Place’ is another illuminated installation built as part of the Akari Art Exhibition programme, within a city-wide event in Kusatsu. Receiving over 30,000 visitors, the programme was held in historic shrines and temples throughout the city, which was historically an appointed area for inns in the Edo period (1603-1868), due to its being at an important junction of two main roads, Tokaido and Nkasendo. It is within this auspicious city, at the Oshioi Shrine, that MoNo created an illuminated pathway of flickering candles and towering, fabricated Shining Trees, ‘the symbols of our destination’, with the intention of both commemorating the lives that were lost and signalling hope and optimism for the future.
The multitude of creative charitable projects that were formed in the wake of this tragedy reiterates the well-known capacity for architecture and design collaborations to not only physically, but psychologically rebuild a community. The apex of this remedial process might be seen at the Venice Biennale 2012, in which the curator of the Japan Pavilion, renowned architect Toyo Ito, will focus on ‘Architecture in the Wake of Disaster’. With his modest ‘Home-For-All’ project, Ito implores architects worldwide to remember architecture’s raison d’être – not least, as a function of primitive instinct which human survival and progression depends upon. The curator’s vision for Japan’s future resonates in the abundance of smaller projects by architects such as MoNo; not to focus on superficial innovations for the sake of design, but to establish, brick by brick, a new state of normality and an adjusted sense of enquiry into the purpose of architecture.
Twelve years after the opening of Tate Modern, a new addition to Europe’s most popular gallery of modern art is close to completion: Tate Modern 2. While this much-anticipated sequel was announced several years ago, its construction has been underway since last summer with the first phase due to be finished this year; by no coincidence, at the same time London welcomes the world to the 2012 Olympics.
As with Tate Modern itself, the new section designed by Herzog & de Meuron draws upon its architectural history to create something entirely new. Increasing the gallery’s overall space by a massive 60%, the new 25,000 sq ft building will sit to the south of the original gallery, expanding on Tate Modern’s famous origins by incorporating the former oil tanks that once powered Bankside Power Station in the mid twentieth-century.
In these dark underground recesses, Tate will be able to hold new installations and performance pieces including dance, music, film and spoken word. Divided into three parts, the tanks will accommodate a changing programme of exhibitions in one, performances and events in another and supporting facilities in the third. The raw industrial surroundings will provide an interesting backdrop to the major artworks it will hold – as with many contemporary galleries, Tate is searching for antidotes to the conventional ‘white cube’ interior.
In keeping with the historical structure, the extension also has a brick facade. Yet this unfashionable material is reinvigorated with a perforated lattice, which allows interior lights to glow through during hours of darkness. The new section will also include different types of galleries and public spaces on the upper levels, accessible through a series of wide, maze-like staircases that double-up as resting or meeting points.
The project was greatly needed given the gallery’s enormous success. In fact its eventual expansion seemed inevitable; with an expected number of around 2.5 million, under Sir Nicholas Serota’s direction Tate Modern received 5 million visitors in its first year alone.
Meanwhile, the overall picture of the UK’s arts industries is becoming increasingly divided. Last year’s dreaded Arts Council cuts resulted in more funding into the larger, more successful galleries in the UK, leaving little or none left for many of their smaller, independently run counterparts – many of which have gone into administration as a result.
While the cuts have undoubtedly had an effect on all art institutions – Tate Modern’s own government contribution for this project was cut by 15%, meaning the second phase of its completion is being pushed back to 2016 – this £215m renovation could be seen as a portentous new symbol on London’s skyline. The government’s response to the recession indicates a dominant focus on the improvement and expansion of well-established galleries, while smaller independents are having to find their own ways to keep hold of their businesses or face total extinction. In this respect, Herzog’s prophecy that Tate Modern 2 will be ‘even more of a success with people, even more a part of London’ is a reflection of the times, but for some, not a necessarily positive one.
Lighting designer and multi-disciplinary visual artist Mario Nanni has brought his illuminated architecture projects to London for the first time with a screening of his latest ‘light poem’, Da Sempre per Sempre (All Along Forever).
The founder of Italian lighting manufacturer Viabizzuno, Nanni works with architects and designers worldwide to create ‘not just products, but solutions’, while his ‘light poems’ use film in an unconventional context to illuminate spaces and reveal new dimensions to the architecture of a building.
Having collaborated with a plethora of other artistic and architectural visionaries including Kengo Kuma, legendary painter and film director Peter Greenaway, Peter Zumthor for the Serpentine Pavilion 2011 and David Chipperfield for the Wakefield Museum, this latest project arose when the Gucci Museum commissioned Nanni to create a light show to celebrate its 90-year anniversary.
The spectacular result involved a system called ‘2.9LD’ that used projected film to illuminate the façade of the building in a fifteen-minute sequence, depicting a silent narrative through the medium of light.
At its debut screening in London at the Viabizzuno Inlondra showroom on Great Titchfield Street, the audience gathered in a low-lit basement sipping Nanni’s own homemade white wine and sitting on stools of his design, while the creator explained his concept for the Gucci project. It was an exploration in two parts: that of the Gucci Museum and the history of the building itself, a former palace from the Renaissance era called the Palazzo della Mercanzia Florence. In an approach typical of Nanni’s contemplative artistic process, he ‘tried to figure out the client’s needs for light by understanding and listening to the place.’
He extracted colours from Italian Renaissance painting, with its heavy use of reds, blues and greens, while obscure scenes draped over the windows are revealed as fragments of 14th- and 15th-century paintings, which appear to be illuminated from the inside. His work establishes ‘a visual relation between real and imaginary objects: light takes a physical shape, turning into volume…’
A similar project at the Scala in Milan conveyed the value of history and knowledge through a sequence of falling books. In this he tells ‘the story of the human being’, revitalising our relation with the past and emphasising its importance in our current collective mentality. The narrative also depicts the boat used to carry material to build the Duomo on a channel designed by Leonardo Da Vinci – yet another reminder of the underlying connectedness of things.
Nanni sees his purpose as creating ‘not just light but art’, which is perhaps why his work was discovered by internationally-renowned video artist Bill Viola, who he went on to collaborate with. His work does indeed cross disciplines in a way which he himself compares to the multi-dimensional creativity of Da Vinci. His all-encompassing approach to lighting is translated into Viabizzuno, where ‘form follows light’; more weighting is placed on mood and atmosphere than the form of fixtures. A spokesperson for the company reflects that ‘people don’t always appreciate how much lighting [alters] architecture, but hopefully now this is changing’.
Nanni believes that channeling creativity through a range of outputs – just as Da Vinci did – is the way forward. And from a sustainability point of view as well as that of preserving historical knowledge, Nanni’s work highlights the infinite possibilities for a building to be reinvented, re-used and re-imagined, without the need for demolition and rebuilding – to at once save resources and see history in a continually new light.