Friday, April 03, 2009

Elevated environment


To look at architectural drawings and plans can be a soulless experience, the clean, untouched, utopian drawings can almost seem to deny the existence of humanity and the natural environment. Elevations show details to be achieved in all their pure and pristeen forms with unbroken lines and curves that do not encounter any disruptions. It is for these reasons that architecture can be a beguiling discipline, it represents an ability to view the world in a controlled manner, but when the built environment starts to grow from its foundations and is created in its physical and geographical forms rather than its supposed intended form on the page the reality of the human and natural world starts to intervene and alter the best laid plans. To view Richard Galpin’s meticulous and highly stylised architectural themed designs is to see both the beauty, desperation and delight of the architectural process and its manifestations in the urban landscape. At first we see what appears to be processed and stylised designs of fantastical architecture. Lines, curves and blocks of colour appear as perspectives and dimensions of an idealised urban landscape. Amongst these elements of lines, lines of sight into the blocks of colour reveal the visual information contained within. Images reveal themselves, lettering and typefaces, faces, materials and surfaces, the full manifestations of Galpin’s hand rendered designs are revealed, the blocks of colour and partially glimpsed images also highlight the process by which Galpin has rendered these designs. On large scale photos the emulsion is scored into these accuarately defined blocks and lines and the surface is peeled away revealing the white layer of paper underneath, this revealed surface shows the scuffed and frayed underlayer and adjacent to these blocks of scuffed white, lines and blocks protrude into these vast white areas of space, an exploded or imploded urban landsacpe only partially reveals itself. From this point the detail we look for in the archtectural plans is lost to a wider view of the natural environment dictating its presence on the built environment. One might think that this becomes a saddening realisation, Galpin is showing us the extent to which the physical world we construct around us is open to elements of unpredictable natural change and our own interventions that alter the landscape beyond our initial intentions, however we could see this image of destruction and change as a comforting and encouraging sign that time is marching forward and correcting the arrogance of human activity. Constructions built from materials which age and alter by natural processes beyond our control gain character and alter appearance in beautiful and unexpected ways, they grow and define their own right to existence and place in history. Those which degrade and age into a derelict or weakened state defy our ability to construct our urban world from unsustainable processes or designs rendered without the full rigourousness of our conceptual abilities. We cannot deny degradation and the passing of time and these processes warn us of vanity but also allow us to embrace our world as a natural environment with which we can create a relationship and dialogue.
I leave the Hales gallery and Richard Galpin’s thoughtful and handsomely crafted images and step into the city, suddenly every scratched pavement, dried piece of chewing gum, small uninitended intervention into the materiality of the built environment takes on a much larger significance. Dried puddles of water paint their presence on walls with residues of limescale, plants protrude from cracks in the pavement that have filled with the dust and soil that have been blown by currents of winds created by neigbouring buildings. Even markings left by ourselves to demark intended improvements or repairs to the fabric of our city appear as unintended but poignant indicators of our presence. The city will only acede to our will for a very short time and as the natural world infiltrates our urban environment and time passes its effects on our constructed environment and our own efforts to adapt to the environment we have created become either something to fear or something which can reveal an unnoticed and overlooked beauty.

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