Tag Archives: Feix & Merlin


2 Sep

Architecture takes itself seriously.  Very seriously, infact.  It’s a professional field which, today, is draped in a veil of semi-academic esoteric statements – associated with a psuedo-scientific language which does anything but simplify communication between the architecture world and the wider public.  Not to say there aren’t many exceptions to the rule, but  a walk round the Bartlett or AA summer shows is some proof of an entrenched way of talking about architecture in architecture schools and in architecture literature that is extremely difficult to engage with.  In fact, architecture is hard to imagine as ever being popular in the same way as other cultural activities. Is there today a pop-architecture?  The past is full of 60s, 70s and 80s examples, but today it is perhaps only FAT, Allsop, Feix + Merlin and a few other Venturi/SITE/Archigram influenced designers who spring to mind, if I purposely avoid such current meetings of pop and buildings such at MTV Cribs.

I’d like to add Koolhaas to the list – a recent trip to the Kunsthal was full of humour and jokes – but all to often it’s ironic or condescending.  Whereas the visual, digital, film and sonic arts have embraced pop culture, architecture, for the most part, tries to avoid being seen as anything but a noble, serious activity.

So it was a breath of fresh air to stumble upon a project at the Bartlett show a few months back which was fun and serious.  It was tongue in cheek but extremely precise and incredibly well thought through.  More excitingly, it was a great comment on the work and the institution surrounding the display drawings on show.  I can’t remember the girl’s name.  I’ve searched and search to no avail – but the project was for a Church for a cult of Lady Gaga – reappropriating and tranplanting a baroque church to the site of central London, complete with a wonderful dreamt up religio-mytholody.  It was a work of architecture which was cutting in its criticism of so much of the world’s cultural behaviour – and yet, this is not to see it wasn’t pop and it wasn’t fun.  The sharpness of the project’s conceptual strategy made the other work filling the Slade seem hyperbolic, inflated and infatuated by a self-seriousness.  Here was a project that could be enjoyed from both a (very) high and low(er) critical perspective.  Pop meets architecture, rather than pop-architecture.

So what might happen if OMA and Gaga collaborated.  It’s far from an absurd idea – fashion clearly the connecting thread.  But as well as just a collaboration in terms of an exchange of services (a set design for Gaga…A song/performance for OMA’s latest project..see here) it could be something far more exciting.  Architecture is floundering in my opinion as an art that can be appreciated and which has real cultural value.  Modern architecture is STILL looked upon with fear and mistrust by a fast majority of people.  Architects and architecture are an extremely fashionable area of interest and gain plenty of attention, but contemporary work is still an area of potential conflict.  Colchester’s VAF case in point. Both Gaga and OMA have an avant-garde approach to being overtly commercial – a truly stunning collaboration could be as powerful as the Church of Lady Gaga project – a functioning building which really can be understood in pop terms and can be embraced by pop culture.  And there would be plenty of criticism I’m sure from the architecture world.