Cartoons and participation in architecture: An exhibition with a sense of humour.
The city of London opens today its annual Festival of Architecture with the theme ‘Community’. From the 1st until the 30th of June, London residents and visitors alike will be able to indulge their architectural senses with a full programme of activities, events, talks, exhibitions and installations about architecture.
This year’s ‘Community’ theme seeks to explore the future of our city and the ways in which we can bring positive changes to London city life. Festival participants are asked to comment, reinterpret and redesign the city of London to encourage supporting communities and participation to grow. Over the past four years, we at the RIBA Bookshop have developed a creative participation programme by opening our doors to architects and artists who want to paint their designs on our walls, or hang their visions of architecture from our ceiling. To celebrate this year’s LFA, we have invited illustrator Ana Sandoval to design and paint a homage to London architecture on our temporary wall exhibition.
Throughout the month of June the Bookshop at Portland Place will host an exhibition of the work of British satirist and cartoonist Osbert Lancaster, together with a temporary mural by contemporary illustrator Ana Sandoval, who’s brought her light hearted sense of humour to depict some of the best known icons of London’s architecture and their starchitects in a more playful manner than we are accustomed to.
The bookshop is open to proposals from architects and artists who want to exhibit their work throughout the year in the form of drawings, photographs or bespoke designs for our temporary back wall. If you have an idea you’d like to discuss for our winter exhibition, feel free to approach one of our booksellers to express your interest.
The exhibition is free to visit during bookshop opening hours. We hope to see you soon to celebrate the London Festival of Architecture.
RIBA Bookshop Talk: Tuesday 26th April 6:30pm-8:30pm, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD
Author Christopher Beanland will kick off the evening at the RIBA Bookshop by revealing what lies behind the unapologetic grey concrete facades of the Brutalist movement. He’ll take us through a global journey into the fascinating stories of some of the most iconic, and some of the lesser known “Brutalist Beasts” around the world. Why were they built? What do they mean? How are they seen today? These are some of the things we’ll get to find out about this beautifully illustrated catalog of Brutalist architecture around the globe. This evening will pay homage to the architectural movement that is loved today as much as it has been hated in the past. The talk will be followed by an audience Q&A session.
Osbert Lancaster: An Appreciation
Tuesday 10th May 6:30pm, RIBA Bookshop, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD
To book a free ticket please RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Sir Osbert Lancaster (1908-1986) was a painter, a writer, a cartoonist, a theatre designer, an authority on architecture and design, and above all a great British humourist. His pocket cartoons depicting the aristocratic Maudie Littlehampton, her family and friends, which appeared in the Daily Express for forty years, recorded in his inimitably English way the life, news and opinions of the period. His books on architecture and design are as witty as they are authoritative: in them he depicts buildings and interiors with an unerring instinct for the minutiae of stylistic change and recreates with irrepressible humor the way of life of the original inhabitants.
To celebrate the publication of Osbert Lancaster’s Cartoons, Columns and Curlicues, the RIBA Bookshop and Pimpernel Press are delighted to present an evening discussion about him and his work.
Clare Hastings, Osbert Lancaster’s stepdaughter, will introduce the evening with a short talk on ‘Living with Osbert lancaster’.
James Knox will then talk about Osbert’s background, his wide education as an artist and illustrator and the key friendships and influences which led him to become the greatest architectural satirist of his age; And Peter York will speak about him as a satirist of social stereotypes though his drawings of interiors.
Clare Hastings worked for 30 years as a freelance stylist and costume designer, starting at Harper’s Queen magazine as assistant to Anna Wintour. In 2003 Clare changed tack to set up a gift company with her daughter. Ten years later ‘Clippy London’ was franchised, and they now work together on ‘The Indytute’ – which offers ‘brilliantly inspired lessons’ all over London. Clare’s mother was the journalist and writer Anne Scott-James, who was married to Osbert from 1967 until his death in 1986.
James Knox is the author of Cartoons & Coronets: The Genius of Osbert Lancaster and was curator of the 2008 Osbert Lancaster exhibition at the Wallace Collection. He is the biographer of Robert Byron – friend and fellow architectural campaigner of Osbert, and is himself an architectural campaigner. He ran the Art Newspaper for ten years and is now Director of the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation.
Peter York is a British management consultant, author and broadcaster best known for writing Harper’s & Queen’s The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook with Ann Barr. He has a weekly interior design column in The Sunday Times and has just completed writing and presenting a documentary on 21st Century Bohemians for the BBC.
Hugh Pearman is the editor of the RIBA Journal, and was Design and Architecture critic for The Sunday Times for 30 years. He regularly contributes to major newspapers and architecture magazines such as The Guardian, The New York Times, Royal Academy Magazine and Architectural Record. Hugh is the author of Contemporary World Architecture, Equilibrium: The Work of Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners, both published by Phaidon, and Airports: A Century of Architecture published by Lawrence King and Abrams. As well as writing, he frequently teaches and lectures, and in 2015 was visiting Professor in Architecture at the Royal College of Art.
The RIBA Bookshop proudly presents ANCHOR
Book Launch: Tuesday 9th February, from 6:30 until 8:30pm, inside the RIBA Bookshop, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD. Tickets, Free
Exhibition: 2nd February until 1st March, inside the RIBA Bookshop. Tickets, Free.
Fourteen artists, architects, writers and thinkers are summoned by Joe Graham to collaborate in a drawing research project. In an attempt to unravel the shape-shifting mystery that lies behind the humble drawn line, each contributor has been assigned the task of interpreting that which defies detailed definition. What is Outline? A summary, a sketch. A line around things, concealing what lies beyond the line’s plane, revealing what it conceals. A concept with endless possible forms, until someone gives it a shape that changes with every new answer. Or perhaps a melody in time, like the one suggested in Claude Heath’s multidimensional musical scores.
Joe Graham has edited a collection of drawn and written interpretations of outline inside ANCHOR, a new book that will launch in the RIBA Bookshop on Tuesday 9th of February from 6:30pm. The launch will feature an in conversation session about the project with Joe Graham, Chantal Faust and Tom Morton.
To accompany the publication of Anchor, the RIBA Bookshop has organised an exhibition of drawings featured inside the book. The Exhibition opens on Monday 2nd of February, and it’s free to attend during bookshop opening hours.
If you’d like to have a sneak preview of the work of Anchor’s featured artists, you can follow the links to their pages on this list: Andrew Hewish, Gemma Anderson, Claude Heath, Gordon Shrigley, Deborah Harty, Kelly Chorpening, Paul McDevitt, Phil Sawdon, Steven Dickie, Thomas Falstad, Virginia Verran, Tom Morton, Chantal Faust and Joe Graham.
As usual, thank you for reading our blog and we hope you enjoy our latest exhibition.
Last week Architect Eva Jiřičná and writer Deyan Sudjic were our guest speakers in the latest Riba Bookshop Tuesday late evening talk. The evening served to commemorate the recent publication of Jan Kaplický Drawings and its accompanying exhibition, a collection of prints of the architect’s drawings featured in the book that have been on show inside the bookshop since the beginning of September. This latest talk was an intimate and insightful conversation filled with tales and anecdotes about the life and work of the influential architect, who came to be so well known for his futuristic visions and daring designs.
The publication of the book and the exhibition act as a timely contrast with the current developments in computer drawing and its widespread use across the world of architectural design. One of the most unexpected discoveries amongst those who have visited our exhibition, and were not familiar with Jan Kaplický’s work, was finding out that these highly technical, space age drawings had all been in fact drawn by hand and not by a computer, as it is customary for this kind of drawing today. It is a beautiful contradiction that an architect who designed such technologically advanced buildings, should give so much importance to the act of drawing and mark making. Or perhaps he always understood that the ability to do so is one of the things that separate humans from computers. Years later, when the new Apple gadget tool “Pencil” is presented to the world as the latest technological must have toy, Circa Press pays tribute to Jan Kaplický’s mastery of the pen on paper and, once again, opens up the unfinished debate about computers vs the human hand.
To continue on the book’s theme, next week we’ll publish a list of the top five drawing books compiled by the booksellers at the RIBA Bookshop. Whether you are amongst those who carry pen and paper everywhere you go, or have been meaning to dust off that neglected sketchbook for some time, tune in for some interesting recommendations.
On Tuesday, artist Jessie Brennan came to the RIBA Bookshop to present her book Regeneration! Conversations, Drawings, Archives & Photographs from Robin Hood Gardens. The book was very well received by an engaging crowd that took part in a conversation between Jessie and writer Richard Martin. Amongst our guests we had architects, artists, activists and former residents of the Robin Hood Gardens housing estate who discussed their experiences and ideas about the significance behind the life, evolution and demise of this iconic symbol of social housing in Britain.
This is an important book that closes the last chapter in the history of this London brutalist symbol at the forefront of a heated debate since it was first threatened with demolition. But it is also the beginning of the next chapter in the history of London, a city in the midst of rapid transformation through the process of urban regeneration, which no one yet really knows how to envisage. How will communities transform? How will areas change? Who’s moving out? Who will move in? and what will London life feel like at the end of this process? As London continues to regenerate, more people are joining the debate about the future of our city and the people who live in it. This book seeks to record the unheard voices of some of those at the centre of this change, the residents of Robin Hood Gardens.
The book includes archival photographs and drawings of the estate, as well as conversation pieces with some of the residents of Robin Hood Gardens, essays by Owen Hatherley and Richard Martin, and a set of pull out prints of the artist’s work A Fall of Ordinariness and Light. The drawings are exquisite representations of the estate made with graphite on paper and were commissioned by the Foundling Museum. You can take a look at them by following this link. If you would like to buy prints of the work, you can enquire with one of our booksellers. To buy a copy of the book please come into the shop at 66 Portland Place or visit our website.
Thank you Jessie, Richard and everyone that came to the book launch for helping us make the Bookshop a place that inspires and generates ideas and interesting dialogues.
The Last Five
This week’s five remaining titles on our architecture in fiction list moves away from last week’s Sci-fi dominated theme and lands back on earth, where we can spend some time people watching from invisible windows, through modernist glass panels and why not also from secret hiding places. In today’s list, we present you architecture with the power to shape-shift historical events, wars, jigsaw puzzles, paintings, ethical dilemmas and what makes us essentially human. As usual, if you want to read any of these novels during the long bank holiday weekend, you can pop into our shop today and tomorrow Saturday until 5pm to pick up a copy. Otherwise you can also order them online.
Number six on our list is Simon Mawer’s The Glass Room. When Victor and Liesel Landauer meet architect Rainer von Abt during their honeymoon in Venice, the Landauers, enthused by von Abt’s radically modern architecture ideas, commission their new friend to build a house for them, a 1930’s modernist glass and steel house on a hillside outside a Czech town.
The Landauer house soon becomes the central character of the novel and draws direct inspiration from the famous Tugendhat villa built by Mies van der Rohe in 1930 in Brno. The story of the glass room mirrors very closely the history of the Villa Tugendhat, which after only 8 years of serving as a home for the Tugendhat family, was confiscated by the Gestapo, who turned it into an office. The Villa’s ownership changed hands again at the end of WWII when it was turned into quarters and stables for the soviet military. As the story of war in Europe unfolds, the glass room metamorphoses into different kinds of buildings, reflecting some of the most significant historical events that took place between the 1930s and the 1980s.
Life: A User’s Manual was first published 1978 and soon became Georges Perec’s best known literary work, giving him international acclaim. With the help of a jigsaw puzzle and a well known chess problem known as the knight’s tour, a sequence where the knight is required to visit every square of the chess board only once, Perec used a 10 storey apartment building at the fictional Parisian address, 11 Rue Simon-Crubellier, as the setting to weave together 99 seemingly disconnected life stories.
In similar fashion to the way Hitchcock showed us the apartment building as a container for the urban living microcosm in his 1954 mystery thriller “Rear Window”, Perec moves closer into the lives of the apartment dwellers, shaping characters through detailed descriptions of room interiors and the scenes that unfold inside them, painting a picture of everyone’s and no one’s life with his words.
Charles Belfoure is an American architect, writer and historian who takes us into the city of Paris during World War II with his latest novel. In The Paris Architect we meet Lucien Bernard, an amoral individual trying to live through the German occupation unnoticed by turning a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the German soldiers against the Jews. When the architect finds himself short of money, he faces the dilemma of whether to accept a generously paid, but also the most challenging and dangerous design job of his career. A wealthy Jewish man wants to commission Bernard to retrofit buildings with hiding places, where persecuted families won’t be found by Nazi soldiers.
Full of fascinating architectural problems and their solutions, The Paris Book is a gripping story about ingenuity, skill, clever detailing and the question of ethical values in the face of danger.
In Building Stories by Chris Ware we follow the lives of the inhabitants of a three flat apartment building in Chicago. More than a book this is a graphic novel presented in the form of eleven pamphlets inside a beautifully designed box, where the reader is invited to build his own narrative by changing the order of the pamphlets. Like Perec’s Life: a User’s Manual this is a puzzle and a painting where the stories are told through detailed illustrations of apartment interiors, as well as plans, sections and elevations inhabited by an array of characters and the objects they own. If you pay close attention to the street view vignettes, you might be able to spot one or two apartment buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Number ten and last on our list is Italo Calvino’s modern classic Invisible Cities. In this work of experimental fiction Calvino sets out to describe the city of Venice many times over in every short chapter of the book. More than a story, this is collection of impressionistic sketches of the same city in the guise of several imaginary places visited by Marco Polo, the narrator of the book. The descriptions are made of poetry, ideas, meditations, feelings, perceptions and all the things that stir inside when we contemplate something that moves us. If you haven’t read this yet, this is a beautiful book.