Aug 31, 201309:00 AMPoint of View

Q&A: Edwin Chan

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EC: Well, I think it's very easy to draw a close correlation between Frank's work and Richard Serra's sculptures. For instance people think the big gallery space in Bilbao was designed for Richard Serra's sculpture and I would be the first person to disagree. In fact the sculpture came later and in my personal opinion, I'm not so sure if the sculpture looks that good in the gallery. But generally in Serra's work there is an interest in surfaces and as you know there was a period in Frank's career when he was exploring the fish as inspiration. The use of the aerospace software Catia enabled Frank to pursue that interest, and also in this case quite deliberately enabled Serra to pursue his work as well - since Frank introduced him to the use of that technology. So in that sense the similarity may be the overlap of the software and technology that enabled both the architect and the artist to pursue their own interests. But I think for me it is the idea of experience of the sensuality of architecture that I am interested in and people are often afraid to talk about. And that is why I have always been fascinated by the art because in some ways the discipline of art is much more free in addressing those issues. I think this also goes to a bigger question that is about the sculptural aspect of architecture. Historically I think there was not that kind of boundary between the artist and the architect. When I experience some of the work of Richard Serra it is very easy for me to say that I could live in the space of his sculpture. Or I think it's not so different to look at Frank's work and say it is very sculptural. So the idea of this kind of duality, that architecture in some ways is a living sculpture is the fundamental value system that we all believe in and a lot of architects and artists do that. I think it's important to erase that boundary between what is architecture and what is art.

IA: Do you think the binoculars were an attempt towards merging the two boundaries?

EC: I wasn't there at the time so I cannot talk about that experience. But I would think in some ways that was more intuitive, through their friendship and they wanted to use design as a vehicle to further artistic conversations. But the official story is that Frank and Jay were having a meeting in the office. Frank always has things that interest him in his office and around his studio. That day Frank happened to have a pair of binoculars that Claes had made for him sitting next to his desk. So they were talking about the project and they were brainstorming on what to do with the facade, and at some point Frank put the binoculars in the model, and said it could be something like this! So it happened in that sort of spontaneous manner.

The chapel at Loyola Law School


IA: I find the whole story interesting because even with Frank's exploration of the fish there is a similar approach to Claes’ work with respect to the idea of scale: taking the object - or the idea of the object - and building it out of scale.

EC: I would like to think of it a little differently. In some ways, going back to some of the things you brought up earlier, here there is an idea about movement and how to embody or explore the idea of movement in architecture, which goes back to the idea of the city. Because I think in some ways Frank's interest in the fish is a way to indirectly explore the idea of movement because the way the fish moves is very beautiful. And this idea of movement has been explored before in the baroque period or the modern movement and the work of Le Corbusier or Mies van der Rohe. So today with the technology, the idea of the fish is one of the ways to explore the idea of movement.

And that is also why Loyola Law School is a very important project in Frank's collective projects, and an important milestone for Frank. It was a jumping point where he started to get larger, more institutional projects. The project is all about creating public spaces. On a school day you see how the spaces are being used. It is about architecture making an urban landscape. Each one of these buildings are classrooms. So part of the idea is to have the offices separate while the classrooms have their own identity and they start to make these spaces for the students. And a lot of the stairs here are the egress stairs and they are made as part of the architectural experience. Most people would put the egress stairs in the shaft space and forget about them. Why not to make it as part of the urban experience? The buildings here are in a dialogue with each other.

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