‘Old Willie’ is weather-beaten and ordinary. A simple man of simple tastes, thoughtful and sincere, one could reasonably infer from his relaxed posture, riven features and plain clothing. He stares at us, from the projection wall, unflinching. He knows that it is wise to think before you speak, so he says nothing; the intention is in his eyes.
A man of his time he may be, but for James Guthrie this painting represents a departure from tradition in its stark, uncompromising realism. For Iain, this is Architecture with a capital ‘A’: honest, unfussy and straightforward but layered and thoughtful, delivered with care. Of a time, but timeless. Simple, but not simplistic.
Iain himself was raised in a strict Presbyterian tradition that subconsciously informed his developing architectural tastes as a student, now fixed as a practicing architect. Gigon and Guyer’s Kirchner Museum, completed in 1992, is the essence of this approach. Considered dull by some, its charm lies in a pragmatic layout and precision detailing, almost machine-like in its execution. Devoid of ornament, the vitality of this architecture is defined by the life that happens within its walls. Bare concrete is brought to life by Ernst Kirchner’s expressionist paintings, a light filled hall is animated with critical conversation. The building as a peripheral support, rather than the centre.
Why? Because people make architecture: our clients, our co-workers, the end user and wider community. This is not the first time this sentiment has been expressed here; our culture defines who we are and how we work. The characters are important and their stories matter.