Friday, 19 August 2011

The Horses Mouth

I've been looking at this big book on Gillespie Kidd and Coia architects resident on these Berlin shelves, who were actually Izi Metzstein and Andy McMillan under sobrique. I was wondering, as I flicked through it's pages of brick and concrete, of brutal scots sixties buildings long lost in Cardross, just what made their work so brilliant? The book retails on Amazon over £240, and this one is personally and lovingly dedicated to my host here in Berlin. I'd better not spill my scotch on it. Actually neither Izi or Andy would have scared a jot for spilt scotch, but we live in a different age. I'm surprised the tome isn't in a box.
The answer is quite elemental if you've worked in an architectural school. The work of Izi and Andy represents the sublime manipulation of plan and section in the most artful and ingenious ways, also the articulation of detail in, yes, artful and ingenious ways. They won the RIBA gold medal for it. It also represents an ugliness of every conceivable conception. Both at the same time, a passionate love of the former and a passionate distain for the latter, makes for greatness within a certain conception of what makes things great. It is an architecture which loves elbows and feet rather than that obviousness of the face. We can all love the odd elbow, and feet are now a fetish, but that's not the world they were in, they loved those elbows and feet. This of course, is a great modernist ideal, just read the fabulous novel 'The Horses Mouth' by Joyce Cary and you will understand their sensibility utterly and completely.
I worked for a while with Izi just before he retired. I regret at that my youthful age, I didn't really understand the old horses wisdom. I think I was a real pain in his arse. I went for an interview for a job at the Macintosh school in Glasgow with Andy McMillan, and of course blew it with talk of architecture students making pop videos for the Pet Shop Boys.
Now I stare at those plans and sections.

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