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Two large wall hangings composed of ethically sourced printed animal hides installed above the Norman Shaw stairwell at the Royal Academy.  

 

Each wall hanging is printed with a repeating pattern of recognisable elements of wall or roof construction: brick, tiles, stone cladding and shingles.  The hides are hung from several points to reveal their softness and pliability, thereby subverting the rigid and load-bearing qualities of the materials represented.  In this way, the hangings challenge the connection between authenticity of materials and structural stability, and suggest decoration as integral to architecture's function as shelter.

 

One of the most interesting and far-reaching enquiries into the origins of architecture is The Four Elements of Architecture (1851) by Gottfried Semper.  In contrast to other accounts which sought to trace architecture's beginnings through construction methods, Semper looked to the patterns of life of primitive mankind. Semper saw the origins of enclosure as lying in the traditions of weaving and wickerwork.  Surface was, therefore, distinct from structure, with pattern and decoration elementally intrinsic rather than applied.

 

This artwork takes Semper's ideas and mixes them with those of his contemporary Quatremere de Quincy for whom primitive surfaces might also be leaves, branches or animal skins.  It also playfully imagines the origins of contemporary construction patterns to be driven by certain peculiar breeds of animals which formerly lived on city grounds until they were driven out, their markings recorded in early urban portraits but now sadly extinct.

 

 

[From Origins: A Project by Ordinary Architecture]

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Royal Academy of Arts

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