Organiser/Chair, On Fabrication: Conversations Between Designers and Makers, Architectural Association Public Programme, January-February 2021
I organised and chaired this series of discussions, which explore the relationship between designing and making, and between designers and makers. The politics, poetics and practicalities involved in this exchange are regularly overlooked, with representation and documentation of completed projects tending to emphasise the role of the designer as sole author. Although a process of design delegation is intrinsic to construction at an architectural scale, the skills and expertise of a projects’ makers are often integral to the development of the design itself. In a year defined by the challenges of working remotely, it seems particularly important to maintain a conversation about working relationships, and to examine the means by which practical experience is exchanged, instructions communicated, and designs developed as shared endeavours.
In the first talk in this series, Amin Taha and Pierre Bidaud discuss their experience of working with natural stone, focusing on the creation of 15 Clerkenwell Close in particular. This seven storey building, completed in 2017, utilises quarry-finished limestone columns and lintels to form a structural stone facade. Amin and Pierre discuss how craft expertise is incorporated within an architectural design process, and the practical challenges involved in working collaboratively with structural stone.
Amin Taha was born in Berlin, moving to London where now practices architecture as one of the founding partners of Groupwork. The practice’s projects have been widely published and are characterised as narrative and tectonically driven. Amin has taught and still writes on architecture, is on RIBA National and International Awards committee and advises pension funds on sustainable investments.
Pierre Bidaud has been a stonemason for 30 years. He left France for England in 1998 working in restoration. He developed an interest in contemporary architecture and in 2005 began to work on new projects. After a meeting in 2009, he embarked on the research and development of a new method of mineral construction. For 10 years he has worked at the Stonemasonry Company, designing stone stairs and structures using techniques such as post tensioning, and discreet steel reinforcement.
In the second talk, Peter Ballantine discusses his working relationship with Donald Judd. Judd’s production method involved ‘extreme delegation’, in which decision-making was ceded to those who fabricated works for him. These individuals developed the necessary construction details through their familiarity with traditional carpentry and metal workshop practices. Judd’s practice raises significant ongoing philosophical questions about the politics of fabrication, and the relationship between authorship and authenticity within fabricated designs.
Based in New York, Peter Ballantine has specialised in the works and philosophy of Donald Judd since 1969. He first met Judd while he was a fellow at the Whitney Museum Independent Studies Program in 1968, and began working for him the following year. Between 1971 and Judd’s death in 1994, Ballantine fabricated nearly 250 Judd works himself, sometimes also supervising other US and European fabricators on Judd’s behalf. Since 1994 he has restored at least 500 Judd works. Ballantine lectures and writes on Judd and Judd issues/implications and has curated 40 Judd exhibitions.
In the third and final talk, Fenella Collingridge and Daren Bye review the construction of Walmer Yard. Completed in 2016, this group of four houses is built around a shared courtyard within in Notting Hill. Rich in both material and spatial variety, Walmer Yard presented unique technical challenges to both designer and maker in the production of bespoke components and details. Focusing on the cast-in-situ concrete elements, Fenella and Daren discuss their collaborative working method and the media used to resolve Walmer Yard’s detailed designs.
Fenella Collingridge was associate designer of Walmer Yard. For many years she taught architecture at the Royal College of Art. She teaches at the Architectural Association and has run research projects into the relationship between colour, volume, tone and texture in architecture. She exhibited ‘Proposal B’ with Peter Salter at the Venice Biennale in 2018.
Daren Bye is a master builder. He has worked on regeneration projects, high end refurbishments and bespoke new build developments. His attention to detail and quality has led to collaborations with some impressive artists, architects and designers on projects such as Walmer Yard, Camberwell Church and Proposal B; an installation designed and constructed for the Venice Biennale.