The texts produced for the Vistas exhibition ranged from a poem for Robert Milligan, a lament for the lost eyes of a stone lion in the British Museum, and a description of St Pancras International as a music hall diva! You can read a selection of the texts below:
By an architectural chain reaction this library has taken on the colour and shape of the Victorian station next door. Once you come inside the surrounding wall, though, you are in a separate world and can barely see your Victorian neighbour. If it’s the world of learning, an ominous sign looms up on your left, a massive enlargement of Blake’s Newton in unfriendly bronze. He’s the Demon of Measurement, or of learning as mental imprisonment, a strange emblem to install in exactly this spot.
Did the sculptor know that the figure would be drawing his circles onto the books of the enormous library stored just beneath the floor of this court? Do these pedestrians realize they are walking on top of unscalable mountains of accumulated human lore?
Usually not, for the courtyard looks like a simple cleared space, a platform left free for nothing more focused than observing the sky. So this new opening in the fabric of the city is probably understood best as an antidote to learning, not an emblem of it.
- Robert Harbison, MA Architectural History, Theory and Interpretation, London Metropolitan University, for the British Library
Ballast was thrown out two or three times and was probably sand; but the dust of it had this effect, that a stream of golden cloud seemed to descend from the balloon, shooting downwards, for a moment, and then remained apparently stationary, the balloon and it separating very slowly. It shews the wonderful manner in which each particle of this dusty cloud must have made its impression on the eye by the light reflected from it, and is a fine illustration of the combination of many effects, each utterly insensible alone, into one sum of fine effect”. This square built in the age of hearth and home when domesticity was the new urbanization, the surburban estate, the gated community, for the parliamentarian lord protecting his space and by dim candlelight reviewing his Acts, his law, his order.
But as the dust of time blows and is swept away through years of repeal and reform, utopian dream ‘a golden cloud’ is founded here by scholar and academic who contemplate gas lit texts. A ‘combination of many effects’ a flick of a switch, a light bulb lit, illumines the sum of the here and the now, of thought that breaks through bond and border and railing, like the London Plane trunk, but the branches reach insensible and alone, viewed through High Windows. ‘The sun-comprehending glass, and beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.’ (Philip Larkin)
Quote Michael Faraday’s diary June 1850, Bloomsbury, Anon
- Jonathan Lovekin, MA Architectural History, Theory and Interpretation, London Metropolitan University, for Bedford Square
In Christ Church’s west elevation people have wanted to see many things; centuries of thought oblige us to recall only a few. One, it is said, saw the first page to a rare and enormous dictionary; another, a map of today, which read in a strange light, was also a map of yesterday and tomorrow; another, a reflection that far outstripped the surroundings, but only if observed from a particular angle. What we are to make of these variable sightings perhaps no person knows. And who can say how or why a thing so unique has been thought an emblem of catalogues, charts and mirrors, that is, the clothes and contents of almost every city. Others, no less ambitious, no more exact, have seen in it the unimaginable ocean, the irrecoverable shapes of cloud, the indescribable colours of dawn. Which begs the question, which ocean, which cloud, which dawn? Others still, believing to be more realistic, have invoked a sweeping fire, chasing a crowd of people out of a city, a parliamentary act, and a window common to the work of Palladio. Last on our mystery list, a few lines somebody has scrawled onto a tree nearby, which time has not yet effaced:
Watching Christ Church
From this singular spot
A reminder of (one, or more)
Things so easily forgot.
- Tom Legg, MA Architectural History, Theory and Interpretation, London Metropolitan University, for Christ Church, Spitalfields
It was a warm balmy afternoon when I was last seated here, it wasn’t a market then, these shops were not here, nor these people.
I sat staring at the church, trying to see past the front door, but it was never opened far enough to see what was happening inside. I waited quietly in the sun, shuffling my feet with nerves and guilty excitement. I had heard the whispers of their arrival and I was sure that I could hear them faintly singing. Then slowly they flowed out of the church and onto the street, sleekly dressed in black, faces of sorrow. I search their dark eyes, looking for recognition, but they were all strangers. That day they belonged to each other and to the church. Just as quickly as they appeared, they disappeared, into their sleek carriages pulled by plumed horses with polished hoofs.
A shadow fell over the church and its golden inscriptions ceased to shine. The church slowly closed its doors behind them, exhaling deeply as they left. Its oculus became weary and slowly closed to rest. The church was preparing itself for the next visit from the strangers.
- Angela Halman, MA Architectural History, Theory and Interpretation, London Metropolitan University, for Exmouth Market
I sit looking out at the river, the design museum looking over my shoulder. I come down here sometimes on Sundays to keep him company. We sit here like two fishermen, watching the grey ripples and talking slowly. With long pauses. Today I told him a story from my childhood, of when I made a museum. He listened quietly to the story, but it reminded him of what he was most afraid.
I had begun collecting things from the street, bits of things, screws, bolts, unremarkable things in themselves but probably critical as part of something. I kept them in a tool box, organised in little plastic compartments. My mother told me I was like my grandfather, that he always picked things up, in case they might be useful one day. I liked this, so kept collecting whatever I could. Whenever I went somewhere I brought back souvenirs, but not from the gift shops. I rescued lost things.
After a while my collection grew rather large, too big for the tool box, and my mother wanted it out of the house. This is when I decided to make a museum. I built it from wood at the end of the garden and lined it with shelves. Then came the best part, I took out my tool box of treasures and organised and classified each piece and displayed them on the shelves. It was the most fantastic thing. I sat there for hours, completely calm in the ordered-ness of it. To me it was perfect, but after I’d made it, I stopped collecting.
- Maria Smith, Studio Weave, For the Design Museum