Architecture and Sculpture

Architecture and Sculpture

What do architecture and sculpture have in common? Both of them operate within Space and Light. Architecture often attempts to play with several spatial and formal concepts but the extent of this experimentation is often limited by budgetary and engineering constraints. Sculpture is a medium with which formal and spatial tests can be performed to an aesthetic extent without architectural limitation. Le Corbusier’s definition of architecture is equally appropriate for defining sculpture: “(Architecture is) The masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light.”  Architecture and sculpture seen from Michelangelo to Heidegger to Anish Kapoor and Herzog de Meuron.

Cloud Gate, Anish Kapoor

In the world of architects, Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century, is notorious for his study Building, Dwelling, Thinking (1951), but little is known that another essay that he wrote, in 1969 titled Art and Space, could be of equal use for the guild. The essay was written as a result of his collaboration with the Spanish sculptor, Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002), who studied first architecture, and then turned to art. He mainly uses metal, stone or wood, and is interested in the effects of the natural phenomena (sunlight, wind, rain, tides) on his massive, abstract sculptures. In his essay, Heidegger questions the nature of the space and the liaisons between the space and the sculpture. He identifies three types of spaces: space where one perceives the sculpture as an entity, the space enclosed within the sculpture, and the voids between the volumes. But in fact, he speaks about limits. When a sculptor sculpts, he defines his idea by taking out everything that doesn’t serve. Is not the same process in architecture? Doesn’t an Architect sculpt the space until he finds the best solution to be inhabited?

Piene Del Viento, Eduardo Chillida
Eduardo Chillida

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) is one of the representatives of the Italian Renaissance, as he’s excelled in everything he undertook, from painting and sculpture to architecture and poetry. During the Renaissance, architecture, sculpture, and painting were intertwined. One cannot imagine the Sistine Chapel without its frescoes, only mere walls. One cannot imagine the Medici Chapels without its statues. Sculptures and frescoes were whispering about the possessor of the building, or about its purpose. Sculpture or painting was not a decoration. Everything was thought, designed and perceived as a whole, spaces were experienced with the whole body. This happened because the human body was seen as the center of the universe. The use of the Golden Ratio when designing spaces gave a sense of human scale and proportion that was very well received both by the body and the brain, equally at the sculpture David, and at the Piazza del Campidoglio, in Rome, Italy. He made no difference when creating a painting, a sculpture or a space. Proportion and sensitivity were always in his thought. He instilled in all his works, his ideas of beauty, truth, faith, transcendence.

Sistine Chapel Interiors, Michelangelo

Born in 1954 in Bombay, India, but grew up and works in London, Anish Kapoor (1954) is of much relevance for our analysis, as he tackles like no one else, the space, by creating site-specific installations, as well as objects that test the phenomenology of space. His sculptures are not to be seen only, they are created to be interacted with, experienced. In an interview for Post Magazine, Anish Kapoor states that “The idea of place has always been very important to my work. A place that is, in a sense, original. I mean, by the word original, to do with ‘first’, and I think that is to do with centering oneself – allowing a thing to occur specifically rather than in general. A lot of my works are about passage, about ‘a passing through’, and that necessitates a place.” Anish Kapoor’s works can be described as monumental and minuscule, bold and restrained, shaped by and shaping space; it is his versatile nature that makes Anish Kapoor palatable to almost every taste. By using a space to literally and/or figuratively reflect back on itself Kapoor always has a sense of self, purpose and place.

Arcelor-Mittal Orbit, Anish Kapoor

Jacques Herzog (1950) and Pierre de Meuron (1950) have a long history of collaboration with artists, such as, Rémy Zaugg (1943-2005), Helmut Federle (1944),etc. They consider the artists to have strong conceptual skills, which go beyond the aesthetic reasons that can be of tremendous help for architectural projects. From them, the architects have learned how to look at a museum with a critical eye, and who can know better what a museum needs, if not the artist himself? Rémy Zaugg was a Swiss conceptualist artist, also known for his critical approach regarding the perception of space and architecture, and even wrote a book about the relationship between the work of art and space. He had his studio designed by Herzog& de Meuron, but he was also involved in other 14 projects with them. Designing the studio of an artist with such a strong personality and such a wide culture can be a challenge even for talented architects as Herzog & de Meuron, they recalled: “This was very tough because his work is about perception and it’s very critical about museum spaces… Doing this studio was a real test for us to show how a museum space should be, because even though it’s a workspace, it still has the character of a space where art is viewed.”

Rémy Zaugg Studio, Herzog de Meuron

Source: re-thinkingthefuture.com; archdaily.com

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