Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

2021 RAIC Gold Medal: Climate, Place and Craft

In November 2020, Brigitte Shim presented the work of Shim-Sutcliffe as part of the Angan Lecture Series at the School of Architecture and Design, Brac University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. The online lecture was followed by responses from Kenneth Frampton and Marina Tabassum. Here are some of Kenneth Frampton’s remarks.

A. Howard Sutcliffe cutting weathering steel for the roof of the Garden Pavilion. Photo by Shim-Sutcliffe

In November 2020, Brigitte Shim presented the work of Shim-Sutcliffe as part of the Angan Lecture Series at the School of Architecture and Design, Brac University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. The online lecture was followed by responses from Kenneth Frampton and Marina Tabassum. Here are some of Kenneth Frampton’s remarks.

Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe’s work is constantly expanding in its scope, although the same constants of climate, place and craft run through their work with ever-increasing intensity. One aspect of their work which is particularly striking is not only their respect for craft, but the way that craftsmanship is quite literally built into their practice. This is polemically driven home in the recent presentation of their work with a dramatic image of Howard Sutcliffe cutting steel with an oxy-acetylene torch!

A similar emphasis on the nature of the raw materials out of which their work is made surfaces in the specific quality and treatment of the Danish brickwork used by the architects for a project they have recently designed in Russia. The Petersen brick company made hand-moulded bricks to Shim-Sutcliffe’s design to construct the body of a large villa on the outskirts of Moscow. The interest of the architects in the expressivity of materials is very evident in these bricks—in the way they are shaped, and the way they are treated— in some cases glazed, in some cases sandblasted. This kind of penetration into the nature of a material is exceptional.

View of east elevation of Integral House from ravine. Photo by James Dow

Brigitte’s lecture also referred to placemaking rather than to the design of buildings as free-standing aesthetic objects. You see this in the impressive photographs of Integral House in Toronto, with its undulating wall. The brise-soleil is, of course, syncopated in and of itself, but what is quite astonishing is the way this functions as a light filter, and the way in which the character and feeling of the space is totally transformed by the seasons. There is a point in the lecture when Brigitte cuts to an exterior shot of the Don Valley and the forest that is adjacent to the interior. When one looks back, the house is not an object anymore. The important thing is that the house is not conceived as a free-standing object—but rather as a reflexive form in relation to both nature and the specific character of the site.

This is the placemaking impulse at its most sensitive—close to the paradoxically positive connotations that Auguste Perret gave to the term ‘banal’ at the beginning of the last century, that is to say for him, the appearance of a new work that looks as though it has always been there.

Kenneth Frampton is Ware Professor Emeritus at Columbia University’s GSAPP, where he taught from 1972 to 2020. His teaching was the subject of the 2017 exhibition Educating Architects: Four Courses by Kenneth Frampton at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, where his archive is held. In 2018, he was recognized with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale for Architecture.

X