It's an amazing
thing that I can wake up in the middle of the night and start thinking about
the past, reach out one hand, and enter this time-tunnel. Currently this
consists of about 700gb of data stored in "the cloud" wherever that
is. Multiple synchronised locations I guess.
Certainly I have several local wormholes with different form factors. One at least is a fairly complete clone, but the one in my hand as I thumb-type this is just an index, full of "on-demand" hyperlinks. Such things were unimaginable in 1980, when I was illustrating a book called "Squatting : the real story"
One of my illustrations depicted a terrace of derelict houses in South London which had been occupied by a group of mostly young people who went about adapting it to their various needs. Living a fantasy life on a shoestring budget. Such things were not uncommon in the 70s in many cities across Europe.
I'm still pretty proud of this drawing. I think I did a first draft in pencil, then overlaid a sheet of tracing to draw the finished artwork with a Rotring pen. Altogether probably a week's worth of effort. Then photo-reduced to paste into the page layout, which Caroline did by hand.
Magical memories without any doubt. Days spent in their Limehouse studio, taking a break from bricklaying in Sheffield and letting my visual imagination run free. Forever grateful that Nick and Caroline invited me on that journey.
illustration for the squatting book. I just drew a globe, then Caroline pasted
it into a layout with various news clippings. Letrafilm gave it the grey tone
used on all the main section pages.
We didn't have Internet, not even a personal computer. I don't know what I used as my reference for the world map. Probably Nick had something. Maybe I even did it from memory.
My major interest was in the hatching technique and the representation of cloud cover. All that was certainly coming directly from my imagination. I was fascinated by the challenge of just putting pen to paper and trusting that it would work out.
There was some scope for a little scratching out with a razor blade, but this could also ruin the freshness of the whole image if you weren't careful.
Why did this kind of illustration not become my day job? I guess it could have happened. I was open to the possibility. Ready for a change. As it turned out that change was volunteer teaching in Africa. Just popped up and I went for it. Never looked back.
I guess you could
subtitle this image pair "the arrogance of the architect". It was
conceived by three young people who rebelled against the profession way back in
the early seventies, and each found our own diverse paths through life.
Caroline sadly left us. Nick and I soldier on. Our views have matured, but I think we both still stand behind the premise on display here. The Victorian street pattern in London was based on hundreds of years of experience. Changing gradually, sometimes expanding rapidly, but maintaining continuity of form and intent.
I personally have great affection for some branches of Modernism. But there are vast swathes that disrupted human community and tradition for no good reason except for the vanity of ideologically driven experts.
It would be nice to think that we have learnt our lesson, but I have my doubts. The inanity of the games people are playing with chatGPT and its siblings, "just because they can" is depressing enough. But read the comments. "so cool" "awesome" "let's do the Taj Mahal in the style of Zaha Hadid"
I love the terraced house typology in all it's myriad variants. So wonderfully adaptive to future changes of use. So effective at nurturing street life (cars permitting) It's not the only way. There are other very successful traditions.
But that's the point. Build on the local tradition. Play around with it by all means, but don't just toss it aside in a fit of hubris.
The Heineken slogan
was written in 1973 and remained a staple of their advertising for more than 20
years. The idea of adapting this for a section page of the Squatting book was
developed by Nick and Caroline. They gave me quite a detailed word-picture of
what they had in mind and off I went.
My first few illustrations for the book had been done in a Rotring pen style that offers clarity and crisp transfer to an offset lytho printing process. But I was itching to spread my wings a bit and the dingy background in this image gave me an opportunity to try some much looser pencil work.
I do hope I can find my way to doing something similar again. It could provide an interesting foil to the work I've been doing with Revit under the "Way We Build" rubric. Just need to find a way in.
Caroline sent me
out with a camera, capturing boarded-up houses of various types in East London.
These were peiced together to form a kind of framing device for a story,
disguised as a comic strip.
Perhaps this is what worries me most about the AI driven style game. It's like all the other style games architects have played for the last couple of hundred years. It forgets that buildings are brought to life by people.
Architects are not brought into this world to showcase their mastery of style and form. They exist to create places that people can inhabit.
The story is a classic. The people fight back against a corrupt, oppressive system. They face many setbacks, but they also achieve some notable victories. The struggle goes on. "A luta continua."
These days I would take a more nuanced view of these kinds of "activism" Not surprising really given that I'm almost 45 years older. But we need stories, and stories tend to have heroes and villains, plus a variety of other characters. All the same, a really good story avoids moralising.
Once upon a time I could draw these human characters at will. Can I reclaim that fluency?