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Sculpture and architecture: What stories are we writing?

Sculptural art and architecture have forever belonged together.

Since humankind first begun creating shelters we have been beautifying our homes with sculptures. From the most primitive cave dwellings, to the ancient cultures of East and West and, more recently, the European Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods – the enduring union of sculpture and architecture have ensured memory and meaning linger through the centuries and continue to enhance our existence today imbuing our personal and collective spaces with soul and meaning.

Yet in the early 20th century, as architecture and the built environment became increasingly guided by technology and science, poetic, spiritual and humanising additions such as sculptures were discarded. The buildings themselves, through shapes, forms, voids and solids, were considered the art work.

But removing sculptures from its historically central and meaningful role has contributed to an impersonality and visual impoverishment in so many 20th century cities.

Too often our environments and our homes are characterised primarily by anonymity, uniformity and neutrality.

This is compounded by the fact that buildings are real estate with commercial value which requires standardisation. So the qualities of poetic, spiritual and subliminal beauty— universally admired in the most magnificent and invaluable structures of the past — have become marginalised. It is rare today to find architecture and sculptures united in any but the most tentative and hesitant way.

But we owe it to ourselves to question the story we are writing. If our homes, our spiritual places, our buildings and urban contexts continue to become nothing more than vessels of functionality telling only stories of commercial value and conformity what legacy we creating for present generations or leaving for those who will come after us?

Already, so many modern urban built environments feel alienating, hostile and overwhelming. So many public and government buildings, hospitals, schools and corporate buidings feel authoritative, inaccessible and dehumanising.

It’s easy to blame the cost factor, but the reality is the absence of sculptural art impoverishes humanity now and long into the future.

There is no debate about whether contemporary architecture benefits enormously from incorporating artistic content to personalise buildings and spaces and provide scale-giving and psychologically benevolent factors. All the research shows us that sculptures provide a welcoming, comforting and sustaining sense of place and belonging allowing us to experience our existence more deeply and meaningful.

There are just so many reasons art should be included in architectural planning.

These include describing a building’s function, imbuing a space with a spiritual quality, enlarging a space by creating illusion, containing a space by creating focus, conferring status, converting neutral spaces into one suited for a particular ritual (such as shopping), establishing cultural links, recovering memories or values of the past or creating values for the future, allowing timelessness and even simply demonstrating wealth.

Clearly, the role of sculptural art in architecture and the built environment needs to be reinstated.

UPS & DOWNS No2 – by Wenqin Chen. 6 meter high stainless steel . Limited Edition / 8.
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And blessedly, this responsibility lies with architects, developers, interior designers and landscape specialists – professionals endowed with the necessary vision, talent, expertise and artistic insight to ensure that sculptural art is re-integrated purposefully and meaningfully into humanity’s habitats for the benefits of present and future generations.

In the words of LeCorbusier, the famed French architect who represented a movement to integrate art and architecture: “You employ stone, wood, and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces: that is construction. Ingenuity is at work. But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good. I am happy and I say: ‘This is beautiful.’ That is Architecture. Art enters in…” (Towards a new architecture 1927)

If you are looking to incorporate sculptures into your personal or professional spaces including housing and unit developments, offices and shopping centres, homes, hotels, schools or hospitals or similar please contact us  – we’d love to help you.

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