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    Architecture and Art: the UCL Bartlett at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

    By news editor, on 19 July 2011

    The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open annual art exhibition. It is one of the key events of the London Summer, and this year the UCL Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment is once again extremely well represented.

    Andrew Porter, Programme Director & Course Co-ordinator of the Master’s in Architectural Design at the UCL Bartlett, explores the exhibition.

    Museum of Comics + Cartoon, New York by Professor CJ Lim

    Museum of Comics + Cartoon, New York by Professor CJ Lim

    Architecture has always been central to the Royal Academy, indeed a number of founding Academicians in 1768 were architects. Before the current professional body of the RIBA existed eminent architects could only demonstrate their high professional status with the suffix RA, a tradition still followed today.

    Another, and a much more recent, tradition is for the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture staff, students and alumni to have work selected for the Summer Exhibition. This year is no exception and a significant number of staff and recent graduates are exhibited as open entries.

    Competition is fierce; both the number of entries, and of course the standard of work, is exceptionally high. Each open entrant is permitted to submit two works for selection in early March and they have a tense wait until May to discover whether they have been successful. This sense of anticipation all adds to the drama of the final event.

    The emphasis on the speculative and contemporary is strongly evident in the architecture section. However, it is also evident that there is a plurality and diversity of approach to design that is reassuringly challenging. An exquisite and enigmatic photograph of the work of Zaha Hadid RA sits alongside the equally striking and resolute Hoogvliet Park drawings, an open entry by FAT Architecture.

    The work from the UCL Bartlett contributors sits firmly in the categories of the speculative and the diverse. The work ranges widely from virtuoso 3D digitally printed models, such as the LA Forum by alumnus Dave Edwards, to witty comic strip-style drawings for a Museum of Cartoon and Comic Art in New York by Professor CJ Lim. Carmody Groarke submitted models and photograph of the finely sculpted forms of their dining rooms in east London, a temporary structure overlooking the Olympic site. In contrast, Luke Pearson exhibited simply highly crafted hand drawn pieces. With partner Abigail Ashton, I submitted a 3D drawing that was a hybrid mix of digitally fabricated elements and hand cuttings from digital prints.

    Ashton Porter's Cut and Fold House

    Ashton Porter's Cut and Fold House

    This is to name but a few of the exhibitors with UCL Bartlett connections: the work of Ben Addy, Niall McLaughlin and former students Barry Cho, Tom Noonan, Dean Pike, Alan Worn and Peter Webb are also represented.

    One room, as is tradition, and about a tenth of the total exhibition is given over to architecture. For the architectural profession this is a powerful reminder of the importance of art practice as a fundamental component of the architect’s oeuvre.

    While architectural drawings and models still exert a fresh power in the contemporary design scene, and it is rewarding to see this demonstrated at the Royal Academy show this year, art practice within the profession can also exist in terms of the conceptual or theoretical approach of art practice.

    This year’s architectural exhibition demonstrated this intellectual dexterity as well as the directly representational. The breadth of submissions is impressive. In addition to this there is also a playfulness evident this year from the excellent curatorial eyes of Academicians Piers Gough and Alan Stanton.

    If you find yourself in Piccadilly, a slight detour to the spectacle of the Summer Exhibition is highly recommended. The exhibition runs until 15 August 2011.