Tag Archives: RIBA

POP Goes Taste

‘It’s funny the way things change’ -Andy Warhol

On Tuesday 27 October, CCW Professor Malcolm Quinn will present ‘POP Goes Taste’ at Good Taste/Bad Taste?  at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Taste is how we fit ourselves into the world. Whether in art, architecture, literature, music or home furnishings, one’s choices are social signifiers. In 18th century England, Palladian architecture told others about your wealth, class and status, today your phone or what TV show you watch does the same. Taste is free, yet incredibly prescribed, codified and enforced and we are all pushed and pulled by it. RIBA is hosting an evening exploring taste, manners, trend setters and pace makers. From Ken Russell’s film Pop Goes the Easel (1962) to the recent decision of Playboy magazine to to stop publishing pictures of fully naked women, ‘POP Goes Taste’ explores Pop Art and its shifting cultural motifs, taste boundaries and new frontiers.

Quinn says, ‘Since the eighteenth century, we’ve all been in thrall to a fantasy about taste.  The fantasy is that a sense of taste and discrimination can allow us to live within commercial society while being able trust ourselves first before we trust the brands, products and services that surround us.  This fantasy has been supported by mass media, liberal governments, art schools and universities as long as the narrow gap between the museum and the gift shop, between the editorial and the advertorial, could be sustained.  However, that gap is shrinking and as it shrinks, the form of this fantasy is more clearly revealed.   At RIBA, I’m going to talk about how this fantasy about the power of taste discrimination in the world of commerce was supported and defined by Playboy and Pop Art in the fifties and sixties.  I will end with some comments on art after Pop, to show how a sense of taste can vanish without us even noticing it has gone.’

IMAGE: Town Hall, Borgoricco, Padua, Italy, by Aldo Rossi, completed 1983

The Brutalist Playground

Balfron Tower in Poplar, commissioned by the London County Council and known during development as Rowlett Street Phase 1, was designed by Ernö Goldfinger as social housing. Built in 1968 and listed Grade II in 1996, ownership was subsequently transferred from Tower Hamlets Council to the Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association (Poplar HARCA) who have managed the building since 2007. It was announced by Mayor Lutfur Rahman on April Fool’s Day (2015) that ‘Poplar Harca were unable to afford the cost of refurbishing Balfron Tower without selling it on.'[1]

Following on from a recent archival display at the Chelsea Café Project, managed by Sinéad Bligh, and the moving image screening during the Research Hub programme at The Cookhouse Gallery, organized by first year CCW research students, the BALFRON TOWER/Rowlett Street Archives will be included in a forthcoming evening event at RIBA on 9th June 2015 to launch The Brutalist Playground. RIBA, with Assemble and artist Simon Terrill, are hosting an evening of free talks, films, tours and more exploring the links between post-war architecture and urban play.

Part sculpture, part architectural installation, all play, The Brutalist Playground is a new commission by Assemble and artist Simon Terrill exploring post-war design for play. Occupying the entire Architecture Gallery at RIBA, it encourages visitors to look at the materiality and visual language of now lost Brutalist landscapes in new ways through an immersive and conceptual landscape.

In the run up to the planned refurbishment of Balfron Tower, the installation at RIBA will offer a timely opportunity to consider this internationally acknowledged building from a different perspective.

The BALFRON TOWER/Rowlett Street Archives were established by CCW PhD student James Lander/Those Who Wish To Remain Anonymous. As property guardians or artists in work/live residence at Balfron Tower, they have been privileged to its inner workings over three years. Their research is distinguished by its forensic nature, encompassing everything and nothing. From its historical beginnings as Rowlett Street, to the widely documented process of regeneration. From the internationally profiled artistic and cultural activities of recent years, to the overlooked traces and ephemera captured in common areas such as the north and south stairwells. Their research uses non-identical twin archives to investigate William Burroughs’ claim ‘Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted.'[2] In collaboration with art and intellectual property lawyers, they will consider the legal implications of these archives and their place within the discourse of architectural modernism in Britain. The aim of their research is the construction of unofficial storeys, in order to repeat the unrepeatable. They will determine who has the legal right to use the material and intellectual property associated with the archives and in which context. The aim of their research is the construction of unofficial storeys, in order to repeat the unrepeatable.

[1] Rahman, L. (2015) Statement on Balfron Tower. [Online] 1 April 2015. Available at: http://lutfurrahman.com/statement-balfron-tower/ [Accessed: 1 April 2015] Mayor at time of announcement subsequently removed from office due to electoral fraud.

[2]  Burroughs, W. (2010) Cities of the red night. London: Penguin.

Image: Children’s playground, Pepys Estate, Deptford, London, 1970s