Looking Through



Staff and students from CiA have just returned from the intensive ADSL week at the university in Antwerp. This annual event is a collection of lectures and workshops by an assortment of international architects and designers assembled together around a common theme. Each unit worked with a group of about 15 internationally mixed students and this year’s theme was: Congruence.

 The outcomes were wide-ranging – from city planning to furniture design – and the media employed included film, animation, photography, model making, and good old pencil drawing.

 Sally Stone organised a workshop entitled “Looking Through”. This used 17th century Flemish paintings of ordinary everyday activities, situated within atmospheric interior settings as its starting point. The students were asked to construct and present their own interior that reflected the narrative of these early paintings, but considered it from the perspective of the 21st century

 The intention of this workshop was to celebrate the long-light of the low sun, balance rather than symmetry, pointed architecture, huge windswept squares and of course, butter, milk and cheese, all of which epitomise the northern climate. These elements are all present in the paintings of, for example, Vermeer, de Hooch, de Witte, Maes and Saenredam. Social harmony and hierarchy, especially the elevated position of women and the democratic manner in which servants were treated, religion and culture, and the business of business, also contribute to the sense of narrative and identity that permeate the paintings. The conclusion was that all the paintings contained long and intense light, warm colours, character and narrative and ofcourse, movement through a number of different interior spaces, often leading to a glimpse of an exterior view.

 The students first built installations within the interior of the university. These were based upon the paintings, but without mimicking them. The installations were then drawn and photographed, these resultant images were then further manipulated, the settings altered to reflect the results and more images were recorded. Drawings were photographed and photographs drawn.

 The results show a modern interpretation of a four hundred year old idea.


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