“I need nature, the changing weather, the heat and the cold.” (Anselm Kiefer, Monumenta 2007 at the Grand Palais.)
How can architecture facilitate an artist’s creative process?
Currently, the education quadrant is isolated by the Central Motorway Junction that carves through Grafton Gully. At a macro scale, this design proposes to infill over the motorway, to heal the rift which fragments Grafton, the Domain and Parnell from the inner city. This bridged landscape sites the formerly scattered NICAI schools as a sub-campus, encouraging inter- faculty exchange of creative thinking.
The School of Fine Arts sits embedded on the banking slope of the gully, looking across to the Domain. The open studios slowly retreat into individual subterranean cells for the rigorous, uninterrupted workings of the creative mind. The instinct to retreat in the making of art traces back to the Palaeolithic people, descending into earth’s cavities to paint in the depths of prehistoric caverns, harbouring into a feeling of safety, enclosure, concealment and shelter.
Along with the idea of retreat, Anselm Kiefer, artist and sculptor, and Peter Zumthor, architect, also inform the design of the school. Kiefer engages in materiality in a way that allows constant shifts over time. His ash, shellac, mud, sand and oil concoctions are intended to crack and fragment. The materiality of the school is explored with a similar outset, the timber façade on Grafton Street’s edge will weather and discolour, texture and age with the deciduous trees that screen it.
Zumthor explores the synthetic and organic in his work. This duality is explored in the elevated timber exteriors that express a lightness over the sunken concrete workshops, which gently step down with the slope. Concrete, with its plasticity and endless possibility of forming, will create the caverns in which creative thinking would manifest.
This built environment aims to foster the creative process, retrieving into the ground, embracing time and shifting with it.