Academic journal article The Sculpture Journal

Architectural Sculpture, Sculptural Architecture: An Interview with Sam Jacob

Academic journal article The Sculpture Journal

Architectural Sculpture, Sculptural Architecture: An Interview with Sam Jacob

Article excerpt

Sam Jacob is an architect, writer and editor. He is currently principal of Sam Jacob Studio for architecture and design and is also Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois, visiting Professor at Yale School of Architecture and Director of Night School at the Architectural Association. Sam Jacob Studio exhibited at the Venice Architectural Biennale 2016 as part of the Victoria and Albert Museum's World of Fragile Parts. The Studio is also working on a strategy for V&A East, the new V&A gallery in Stratford, East London. Sam discussed how sculpture and architecture come together in this and his other recent projects with Katie Faulkner and Ayla Lepine, editors of this special issue.

AL/KF: You've been working at Yale School of Architecture and in your own practice on a number of projects where sculpture and architecture intersect. Can you speak a bit about the kind of teaching and projects you've been doing that engage with sculpture, and what interests you about sculpture as a topic?

SJ: First of all, maybe it's good to talk about a set of relationships between sculptural, sculpture and architecture. These terms often get confused. Obviously architecture and sculpture both exist in three dimensions. They have this in common, but one of the strange things that happens in a certain strand of architecture in the past 10-15 years is that it's incredibly sculptural and it describes itself as sculptural or has been described by others as sculptural. From Deconstruction onwards - Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Liebeskind, certain aspects of OMA, and so on - the form of the building is prioritized above almost everything else, above any other architectural qualities: programme, material, etc. to different extents. We might think about what contemporary sculpture actually is and what contemporary architecture thinks it is in these parallel conversations happening at the same time. And there's a really architectural conception of sculpture - this comes from the 1950s I'd argue, from Abstract Expressionism, rather than either Duchampian readymades or Tracy Emin's Bed, which is itself a bit architectural. These are interesting ideas to think about; how is the term sculptural used or abused by architects. This has created a series of projects that have exploded traditional definitions of what formal architecture is composed of, to such an extent that the young, new generation find it challenging - there's no point in competing! This architecture presents itself as having its own kind of form-language. The relationships between a architecture and sculpture seem to constitute a delayed reaction to form-making.

AL/KF: Do you think there's a deliberate, conscious anachronism in that delayed response?

SJ: I don't know if it's deliberate. In some senses there are certain references which are, or which were, definitely already anachronistic. You could think of the relationship to Constructivism and its influence on a certain set of architects. Sometimes it's just age. Gehry is really old - he's still doing what he was doing when he and Rauschenberg were kids!

AL/KF: Do you think that means that in Gehry's newer projects he's in a nostalgic mode? You could say something like that about Robert M. Stern and what he's doing, capitalizing on the nostalgia that Yale itself contains in its modern Gothic in his own designs for two more twenty-first-century, contemporary Gothic colleges, which contain an enormous amount of sculpture by Patrick Pinnell.

SJ: Absolutely. Definitely. Sometimes it's nostalgic, and sometimes deliberate; sometimes it's just a coincidence.

AL/KF: A little while ago you said something about Tracy Emin's Bed as being a bit architectural. Can you say a bit more about that?

SJ: Yes, it's a kind of found architecture, claiming space, frozen time, taken out of its original context, as a record of the ephemeral architecture of the domestic.

AL/KF: This morning I was thinking about domesticity, and about Alain de Botton's project for philosophical architecture and the Living Architecture series of houses. …

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