July 16, 2014
by Greta Hansen
Beatrice Galilee, Associate Curator of Architecture and Design, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, moderated the panel discussion.Credit: Eve Rosen
(l-r) Craig Copeland, AIA, Senior Associate Principal, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects & Sculptor; Paula Scher, Partner, Pentagram & Painter; and Charles Platt, FAIA, Partner, Platt Byard Dovell White Architects & PainterCredit: Eve Rosen

On 06.24.14, Beatrice Galilee, the newly-appointed associate curator of architecture and design in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, moderated a discussion about the relationship between the production of architecture and art. The three invited speakers included two architects and one graphic designer; these three are also two painters and one sculptor.

Craig Copeland, AIA, a senior associate principal at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, expressed his desire to find in sculpture what is often lacking in contemporary architecture: stone, earth, unprocessed materials, and time. His sculptures take weeks to create using traditional negative sculptural techniques with hammer, chisel, and repetitive parallel slices.

The overlap between his two practices, he said, “comes more from the way I see things than the way I do things… the sensibilities between the two were very similar to me even before I carved in stone.” Copeland’s sculptural pieces, then, are another face of his architecture.

Not so for Paula Scher, who, in addition to her longtime partnership at the design firm Pentagram, has found more recent recognition for her body of cartographic paintings. For Scher, contract-stipulated fees and deliverables define her design practice: “Art and design are separate economic relationships.” Her artistic map-making is ostensibly both a retreat from politics and business as well as a response to them. “All the paintings are a combination of layers that don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other,” she said, “but the information does congeal to create something.” Her lexical regurgitation results in vast, detailed atlases made of words that have no fundamental hierarchy over one another.

Charles Platt, FAIA, a partner at Platt Byard Dovell White Architects, found a less essential relationship between his art and architecture than did Copeland, but had more comfort with their similarities than Scher. Platt’s collages, he said, are architecture, and his architecture is like his collages, with layers and varying degrees of translucency. The collages, made of shoes, overalls, cut-up dress shirts, and various umbrellas, seem to come from a spontaneity inaccessible to built architecture, however. One piece, “Cookout on a porch in a drizzle,” flattens all the elements of a cookout onto a canvas as if the rain suddenly created more argument for art than food.

An audience member posed the question: “Does your art legitimize your design practice in any way?” The panelists appeared uncomfortable with this question. It seemed to me, though, that the opposite was true for the audience: their design practices legitimize and allow a space for their art.

Greta Hansen is a New York-based architectural designer and writer.

Event: Cultural Mapping: Space and Practice
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.24.14
Speakers: Charles Platt, FAIA, Partner, Platt Byard Dovell White Architects & Painter; Paula Scher, Partner, Pentagram & Painter; Craig Copeland, AIA, Senior Associate Principal, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects & Sculptor; and Beatrice Galilee, Associate Curator of Architecture and Design, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art (moderator)
Organizers: AIANY Cultural Facilities Committee
Sponsors: Henraux

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