Architect and senior lecturer in the Department of Architecture, University of Johannesburg. His professional practice focuses on the theory and production of architecturally-inspired furniture and installation environments
PLAYING BALL, OR, A FRIENDLY BETWEEN TWO PRIVATE PUBLICS: THE JOHANNESBURG ART GALLERY AND JOUBERT PARK
The site of this studio is defined by a strange half-way line of sorts, a line which separates two perfectly unbalanced margins of each other, namely the private public of the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) and its estranged neighbour, Joubert Park.
Dictionaries throw up interesting defensive associations in their traditional definitions of the three main typologies making up the scape which represents the site for the above studio:
The gallery is seen as a 'protected' area for the display of art; the park as another, for recreation and the line of the palisade - which currently separates the above-mentioned two urban pieces - 'defends' the one from the other.
Although a tentative (guarded) 'link' exists between the park and gallery, it is marginal and its success at prompting real exchange - between the public park, as a living 'museum', and the public museum as a traditional archive - is very debatable. The recent redefinition of the JAG's South-Western edge in the form of a laser-cut, lace-like threshold - most conspicuous in its nocturnal state - reinforces the social failure which the palisade line, as a divider between park and gallery, represents. It sheds light on the schizophrenically contorted condition of the gallery's confused orientation: its original neoclassical front became its back when the gallery's Post Modern expansion - in the mid 1980s - turned the building's focus northwards towards the park. Now, the aesthetic transformation of the gallery site's Western edge seems to suggest that the front is, again, what it was designed as. Or is it? This Edwin Lutyens-designed entrance remains locked and the Post Modern 'front' cannot really be taken seriously until the relationship between gallery and park is sufficiently addressed.
The site is located in what Clive Chipkin refers to as CBD1 (it's distant and unlikely twin, Sandton, representing an all too convenient second CBD). CBD1, unlike its unreal relative, lives off the real qualities that emerge from the unprogrammed and uncontrollable condition of the in-between. This studio prompts participants to take advantage of the area's layered and unbalanced condition. It asks for a re-imagination of the relatively new museum and park typologies - models inherited and 'accepted' from19th century European precedents - into experimental, hybrid conditions of becoming. Participants will be encouraged to see the park and gallery as part of the same surface, or pitch, in the case of the uneasy game the two 'players' are currently involved in, across the divide of the palisade. The site at large encompasses the park, the line of the separating fence, the gallery and the dense urban edges which define the arena for this large spatial body, 'cut' out of its surrounding urban mass. Situational recordings and mappings by studio participants will provide readings, perhaps understandings and ultimately responses. The products of these explorations will focus on possible answers, and the generation of further questions, rather than absolutist solutions - the failures of which Modernism's definitive zoning visions - and their urban planning applications during the Apartheid era - bear testimony. Designs may take the form of permanent or ephemeral interventions and/or installations, or any other 'form' which specific readings and responses may generate.
Because of a strong programmatic relationship embodied in the brief - in this case between art and architecture - it is suggested that participants pair themselves into collaborative partnerships consisting of artist and architect. This is not a proviso. However, it represents a route that if pursued, may result in design proposals which exhibit the unexpected and potentially rich effects of process, stemming from a working method which supports not necessarily knowing where one is going until one gets there, or not.
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