True to form, our Briefing and Interiors CoG stepped outside of our usual Monday morning programme to engage with us in a conversation about the minutiae of our everyday lives in practice. Congregated without projector or digital media of any sort, we indulged our inner geek and shared thoughts on product, legislation, theory, art and technical detail as experienced at the sharp end of live projects.
At the artistic end, we discuss the work of John Byrne - a prominent Scottish artist and writer commissioned for a work at Dunoon Burgh Hall, his artistic exuberance providing a counterpoint to our reimagining of this historic building. We have a long tradition of collaboration with artists, but there is no standard practice or ‘approved detail’ for how to go about this. It is a tactile process and talking to the artist early on, his work can be absorbed into the building to become a part of its story.
At Stewarts Melville we are making our own artistic interpretation, the metalwork of the entrance gates an abstract representation of the school anthem, translated as a series of shifting bars that communicate pitch, tone and rhythm. An opaque hieroglyphic to the casual observer, this subtle graphic move helps to give the school more than a financial ownership of the new building.
These are the softer elements of our architecture, set against a backdrop of considered spatial orchestrations – part of a choral composition allowing each moment of delight to sing. In this respect the practical, necessarily mundane moments of our buildings are just as vital. Taps, door handles, even desktop cable management must be given equal consideration, if not equal weight, or the focus is drawn to those parts that work less well. How many times have we stood in an otherwise beautiful space, only to find our gaze interrupted by an institutional stair nosing, or barnacles of electrical servicing clustered across the walls?
These services and nosings are there for a reason: legislation. It is the time signature and the framework for our creativity, which can only take full flight if we have an innate understanding of how it affects the work we produce. It is easy to become complacent, but these are a moving target and if we lift our eye from the page we might find that a simple mistake has led to a cacophony of avoidable errors that take time and (inevitably) money to correct. In this case the discussion is centred on the wheelchair turning space, which should properly be a square but regularly persists as a circle. This usually insignificant oversight can, in a minority of cases, be a complex issue to resolve.
Knowledge is power and there is so much information out there waiting to be discovered. But this is not a solitary journey, and through talking and listening we can heighten our awareness of what is possible, bringing our individual efforts together in a collective understanding – a formidable thing indeed.