Magazine article Artforum International

Steven Holl and Martin Boyce: TALK ABOUT THEIR COLLABORATION AT THE GLASGOW SCHOOL OF ART

Magazine article Artforum International

Steven Holl and Martin Boyce: TALK ABOUT THEIR COLLABORATION AT THE GLASGOW SCHOOL OF ART

Article excerpt

THE WORK OF architect Steven Holl and artist Martin Boyce fundamentally alters the way we think about the boundary between their two disciplines. Boyce, who represented Scotland at the 2009 Venice Biennale and was awarded the Turner Prize in 2011, is celebrated for his explorations of the legacy of modern architecture, probing the field's potential as an expansive formal language even as he examines the ways in which architecture, nature, and public space interact. Holl is renowned for creating innovative spaces in which to make and display art--including the 2006 Visual Arts Building at the University of Iowa; a major addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, completed in 2007; and the Nanjing Sifang Art Museum in China, which opened in 2013--as well as for his dedicated pursuit of direct collaboration with artists such as Vito Acconci, Richard Artschwager, and Walter De Maria.

In 2009, Holl won the international competition for the design of a new studio and administration building at the Glasgow School of Art; the finished structure opens this month. The site is located across the street from the institution's physical and cultural heart, the iconic 1909 Arts and Crafts structure designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Responding to this demanding context--itself representative of a historic period of synthesis between architecture and art--Holl sought out Boyce, a graduate of the school who lives and works in Glasgow, inviting the artist to create an installation for a dedicated space within his design. Boyce's resulting steel-and-glass construction, complexly layered just behind the striking translucent facade of Ho11's Seona Reid Building, alters its site even as it sensitively echoes the subtle stained-glass detailing of Mackintosh's neighboring structure. Outstripping the sculpture-in-the-courtyard model of so many banal art-architecture partnerships, Ho11's and Boyce's overlapping spatial and material strategies give rise to an intensely symbiotic connection--one befitting its storied multidisciplinary context.

STEVEN HOLL: I consider the School of Art's original home to be among the most important buildings of the twentieth century. That was the challenge; contributing to the campus was like trying to add on to the Parthenon. There was no way I was going to upstage Mackintosh. So I opted for a blank, sober design that was very respectful of his structure. From the beginning, I also envisioned a flourish of colored glass marking the entrance, which would relate to the beautiful stained-glass work of the original building, one of the many handcrafted details for which it is famous. I have always considered architecture to be a form of art--part of the reason I find Mackintosh's Arts and Crafts synthesis of the two so appealing--and, I thought:

Mackintosh designed the colored glass in his building, so of course I should design it in mine.

But as the project moved forward, I wasn't happy with any of my ideas. Even after the building was under construction, I still had five different versions of a glass installation, and I knew none of them was right. I was actually getting angry. Finally, I realized that an alumnus of the school should do it, an artist who had spent time in the Mackintosh building and who had a deep connection to the city and the institution. I had recently met Martin at the 2009 Venice Biennale. I was very impressed by his installation there, and I knew he would be perfect. I just had to convince him to collaborate--which wasn't easy.

MARTIN BOYCE: Well, artists don't like to be told what to do, and Steven was adamant that the piece had to be made in colored glass. I proposed several other things, but he kept bringing up that specific material. As we continued our conversation about the stained glass in the Mackintosh building, though, I understood why using the material made sense as a response to this new site, and I realized that Steven's contextual approach was directly connected to my practice. …

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