critical reflections
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critical reflections

Granary, Grimentz, Valais, Switzerland, 16th century © Thomas Deckker 2023
Was Vitruvius Right?
2024

Aurelio Galfetti: Castelgrande, Bellinzona 1986 © Thomas Deckker 1996
Two Castles in Switzerland
2023

Nouveau plan de la ville de Paris 1828 © David Rumsey Maps
The Arcades Project
2023

Derelict Building, Kings Cross photo © Thomas Deckker 1988
Henri Labrouste and the construction of mills
2023

Claude-Nicolas Ledoux: Barrière St Martin, Paris (1785-1790) from Daniel Ramée: C.N. Ledoux, l'architecture (Paris 1847)
The Barrière de la Villette: the Sublime and the Beautiful
2022

Vauban: Neuf Brisach
Neuf Brisach: The Art of War
2022

Lucio Costa: Competition sketch for the Esplanada dos Minstérios, Brasília 1956
Did Lucio Costa know the Queen Mother?
2022

Vaux-le-Vicomte, Entrance Court, engraving by Israel Sylvestre
Vaux-le-Vicomte: Architecture and Astronomy
2022

Edzell Castle, Ground Floor Plan, from MacGibbon and Ross: The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland
Edzell Castle: Architecture and Treatises in Late 16th Century Scotland
2022

Capability Brown: Plan for Petworth Park from Dorothy Stroud: Capabilty Brown
The Upperton Monument, Petworth
2022

Isamu Noguchi: maquette for Riverside Drive c. 1961
Isamu Noguchi: useless architecture
2022

Jürgen Joedicke: Architecture since 1945: sources and directions (London: Pall Mall Press 1969)
Gottfried Böhm: master of concrete
2021

Thomas Deckker Architect: temporary truck stop, M20
Lorry Drivers are human, too
2021

Marc-Antoine Laugier: Essai sur l'Architecture
John Onians: ‘Architecture, Metaphor and the Mind’
2021

Sir John Vanbrugh: Seaton Delaval, Northumberland (1720–28) from Colen Campbell: Vitruvius Britannicus vol 3 (1725)
Seaton Delaval: the aesthetic castle
2021

Jules Hardouin-Mansart: Les Invalides, Paris (1676) Section showing the double dome
The Temple of Apollo at Stourhead: Architecture and Astronomy
2021

Eric de Maré: Fishermen’s huts, Hastings (1956) © Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Library Photographs Collection
Eric de Maré: The Extraordinary Aesthetics of the Ordinary
2021

Iannis Xenakis: score for Syrmos, for string orchestra (1959) © Editions Salabert E. A. S. 17516
Iannis Xenakis: Music, Architecture and War
2021

United Visual Artists: Etymologies 2017 © United Visual Artists
United Visual Artists
2020

Margaret Howell: Campaign 2020 © Margaret Howell
Margaret Howell
2020

Palaces of Darius and Xerxes, Persepolis, Iran
The Plans of Antiquity
2020

Cristobal Balenciaga: Skirt Suit, 1964 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Cristobal Balenciaga
2020

Mathias Goeritz: La serpiente de El Eco, 1953 © Sothebys
Mathias Goeritz: 'Emotional Architecture'
2020

Richard Serra: Weight and Measure 1992 © Richard Serra
Weight and Measure
2020

Tony Smith: Playround, 1962 © Tony Smith Estate
Tony Smith: Art and Experience
2020

Highway Construction © Caterpillar Archives
Landscape and Infrastructure
2020

Frank Gohlke: Lightning Flash, Lamesa, Texas © Frank Gohlke
Grain Elevators
2020

>United Visual Artists: Etymologies, 2017 © United Visual Artists
Etymologies
United Visual Artists 2017

United Visual Artists

I find most of what is called ‘public art’ artistically banal and patronising to its audience. I think that it denigrates the public realm in which it is placed, and exposes the limits and drawbacks of patronage by bureaucratic administrative organisations. The works exist only to gain funding from these organisations, who are happy that they have something administratively acceptable to fund. The so-called ‘interpretations’ of social relevance that often accompany ‘public art’ could easily replace the works themselves, thus rendering the work of art pointless.

On the other hand, I think United Visual Artists have produced the best art for public involvement in recent years. I first became aware of them with 'Swarm', exhibited in a window on the Euston Road of the wonderful Wellcome Collection in 2011. 'Swarm' consisted of a display of lights controlled by an algorithm that represented and mimicked the swarming of birds, with sensors that responded to people on the street. The Wellcome Collection consistently hold outstanding exhibitions on architecture, in many respects more interesting that architectural galleries.

This prompted me to visit 'High Arctic' at the National Maritime Museum the same year. 'High Arctic' was an interactive exhibition of fixed wooden blocks representing icebergs and video projections of maps and icebergs on the floor, set in a black box. Sensors tracked people's movement, to which the video projections responded by bringi in images and texts. This was a time when the National Maritime Museum saw its purpose as exhibiting martime objects rather than political posturing.

'Momentum' at the Barbican Gallery in 2014 was deservedly popular, with long queues to enter. It consisted of continuous rain that was controlled by sensors to avoid people underneath. It was a wonderful sensory experience, transforming our appreciation of rain which typically seems to fall only on ourselves.

The strength of this work, I think, lies on the one hand in its sensory and corporeal nature, and on the other in the interaction of physical and electronic processes. It's so refreshing to not have to put up with 'social relevance' or 'personal expression', typical of ‘public art’.

UVA may be found here. For the avoidance of doubt these opinions are not sponsored or supported by UVA.
United Visual Artists: Swarm, 2011 © photo © Thomas Deckker 2011
United Visual Artists:Swarm, 2011
photo © Thomas Deckker 2011
United Visual Artists: High Arctic, 2011 © photo © Thomas Deckker 2011
United Visual Artists: High Arctic, 2011
photo © Thomas Deckker 2011
United Visual Artists: Momentum, 2014 © photo © Thomas Deckker 2011
United Visual Artists: Momentum, 2014
photo © Thomas Deckker 2014
Thomas Deckker
London 2020