Monday, March 14, 2011

Project Proposal_Conor Maguire

Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation, 1959 - Rene Burri
O'Donnell + Tuomey's Timeberyard_Stephen Murray

Photography and the Human Habitat

Project Proposal_Conor Maguire

Architectural photographs of today are almost always taken when the building has just been finished and before the clients properly occupy the building. The images can be the culmination of weeks of pre-planning, site work and post production when they are subject to the rigours of photoshop; being edited, cleaned up, stitched or sandwiched. The result is a constructed sleek image demonstrating the key ideas or design principles of the building, something architects rely heavily on when discussing their work.

I’m not criticizing this process but instead what I’m interested in is what happens after the initial burst of excitement when a building is finished. How do people inhabit the building? How does the building change or adapt, expand or contract over its lifetime? How do people make it their own? Alice recently presented a lecture that talked about photographing O’Donnell + Tuomey’s Howth House years after it had been finished. The pictures, untypical of the original shots, showed relatively little of the overall house but focused more on the life of the building at a smaller scale through texture, surface and material. It showed how the owner had made the house her home. This was something I found truly fascinating.

Emmet Scanlon also presented his house at a lecture a few weeks ago. It was interesting because he looked at the house not only from his point of view as the architect but as the homeowner. He showed a number of slides demonstrating the lifecycle of his garden over the course of a year and how it changed from season to season. Architecture and time, be it long-term or short-term, is something that we talk about all the time but rarely document. Even we consider a building finished when in reality it’s only at the beginning of its life-cycle, an empty shell ready to be inhabitted.

My proposal is to curate an exhibition where architecture is represented in the everyday, where we see a home in a different manner and a different time than we architects usually see them, where we look at a building at the scale of a person rather than the scale of a site. Rem Koolhaas made and released a film recently where he examines the famous “lift house” he designed in Bordeaux from the point of view of the cleaner (possibly inspired form the famous shot of the cleaner in Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion), at a time after the owner of the house had passed away. It sets up an interesting (and funny) play between time and scale and thus is a good reference for what I want to do.

Houselife - Rem Koolhaas

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