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Cristobal Balenciaga: Skirt Suit, 1964 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Cristobal Balenciaga
2020
Mathias Goeritz: La serpiente de El Eco, 1953 © Sothebys
Mathias Goeritz: El Eco
2020
Richard Serra: Weight and Measure 1992 © Richard Serra
Weight and Measure
2020
Tony Smith: Playround, 1962 © Tony Smith Estate
Art and Experience
2020
Highway Construction © Caterpillar Archives
Landscape and Infrastructure
2020
Frank Gohlke: Lightning Flash, Lamesa, Texas © Frank Gohlke
Grain Elevators
2020
Richard Serra: Weight and Measure 1992 © Richard Serra
Richard Serra: Weight and Measure 1992
© Tate Gallery
Weight and Measure
Richard Serra's 'Weight and Measure' exhibition at the Tate Gallery in 1993 was a turning point in my education as an architect (I was already qualified at that time and registered with the Architects Registation Board). I happened to hear Serra speak about his work at the opening of this exhibition and had a moment of epiphany about the relationship of form to context. The ability to organise space among a group of objects and to relate an object to its site is, I believe, a fundamental part of architecture.

Serra told an amusing story that, I believe, distinguishes artists and architects. The solid cast steel objects in 'Weight and Measure' were too heavy for the gallery floors, and the Tate asked him if he could make the objects hollow. He refused, and the Tate subsequently had to reinforce the gallery floors substantially. This attitude seems to distinguish artists and architects, as, in my experience, architects would immediately acquiesce to such a request. I do not mean in anything as crude as construction, but in some fundamental aspect important for the integrity of the work. Fortunate indeed is the architect who can resist such calls.

Serra's talk, and his attitude, gave me the confidence to establish a firm direction for my Degree Unit at the University of East London, when we immediately engaged in studies and design projects relating objects to themselves and to their site, and later in my Year 4 Design Research Unit: Landscape:Architecture at the University of Dundee, where, freed from any functional necessities, we happily played with form and space. In fact the aesthetic of form and space can be found in the real world, as I discovered at Rhodes Welding outside Lamesa, Texas.
Richard Serra: Weight and Measure 1992 © Richard Serra
Richard Serra: Every Which Way, 2015
© Richard Serra. Photograph by Christian Mascaro. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
Richard Serra: Weight and Measure 1992 © Richard Serra
Richard Serra: Through, 2015
© Richard Serra. Photograph by Christian Mascaro. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
Richard Serra shows the same preoccupations of space and form as the Mexican artist Mathias Goeritz. I suspect that these works would not repay exhibiting in a slum as Goeritz did, though, and in fact think that they work better in galleries than in urban settings such as Broadgate, London where they look as corporate as the buildings. They seem to work better as gallery objects; what Robert Hughes (in 'On Art and Money') called the commodification of the art market seems to have removed a public role from Serra's works.
Richard Serra: Weight and Measure 1992 © Richard Serra
Richard Serra: Forged Rounds, 2019
© Richard Serra. Photograph by Christian Mascaro. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
Richard Serra exhibits drawings and objects frequently. His work may be see at the Gagosian Gallery.
Thomas Deckker
London 2020