publication of the International Sculpture Center
Do Sculptors and Architects Collaborate?
by Richard Bailey
the last year or so, Sculpture has devoted considerable space to
articles on public art. Beginning with this issue, that focus will
broaden to reflect the growing sense of connection between sculpture
and architecture. Artists who are also architects in their own right,
artists who work in architectural forms, and architects whose buildings
are strongly sculptural will be covered extensively in articles
focusing on individuals and their work. In addition, the magazine
will also look at the practical aspects of the sculptor/architect
A look back in history
finds sculpture and architecture joined much more closely than they are
now. The Parthenon is now admired as architecture, but it was built as
a setting for a sculpture that no longer exists. Michelangelos David
was intended as part of the sculptural programme of the Duomo in Florence,
but it is now viewed in isolation. Since the 80s, the two disciplines
have been moving closer together. The resulting works can be evaluated
on their merits, but the process of collaboration is often hard to see
This article is intended
to initiate an extended dialogue among Sculptures readers on the
practical aspects of how artists and architects collaborate, on the collaborative
aspects of public art, and on urban design and landscape architecture,
which may include both buildings and sculpture in designing the public
Even in listing these
topics, its difficult to keep seemingly distinct disciplines from
mingling. Is the product of such collaboration primarily a sculpture,
however congenial its setting? Is it an experience of structure or public
space, incidentally shaped by a sculpture? Or is the work
the organic integration of art, structure, and space?
In looking at the
practice of collaboration rather than the results, consider the following
questions a jump ball, as in basketball, intended to get the
action started but not to limit the field of play.
Is a successful
building or public space compatible with successful art?
The practice of architecture
and the practice of art traditionally emphasize the expressive or formal
qualities of individual works. When two disciplines that value artistic
expression attempt to work together, what kind of sparks fly? How are
the conflicts resolved? Can they be avoided altogether? Does the work
benefit more if the collaborators avoid conflict or work through it? Urban
designers often see themselves as concerned with a type of space ignored
by architects: the space between the buildings, not just plazas and parks
but the street room formed by the aggregation of buildings
that were planned separately to varying standards of aesthetics and utility.
Are there any lessons from these projects that can be applied to sculptor/architect
Are there meaningful
distinctions between collaborations to create public art and collaborations
in a private project?
How do artistic concerns
fare in the public participation processes that may shape public art?
Does the participation of civic leaders and the general public lead inevitably
to design by committee? Or can public comments be aggregated effectively
into a statement of public will that an artist can interpret as he or
she would the specifications of a single client? Can difficult or challenging
art survive a collaborative development process with its integrity intact?
How is public space shaped differently by art of different typesserious
or whimsical, figurative or abstract? Was this shaping effect anticipated
in the collaborative design process? If not, did it affect subsequent
and architects adequately educated for collaboration?
design charrette has become ubiquitous in urban planning as a vehicle
for public input into the development process. Charrettes can bring together
dozens or hundreds of stakeholders in facilitated meetings to provide
input that will guide planners. Can this technique be used to guide sculptor/architect
The nature of urbanist/architect
collaboration puts these professions in a broad dialogue over their different
concerns, but there doesnt seem to be a similar dialogue between
the sculpture and architecture professions. The initiative that begins
with this issue of Sculpture is one way to facilitate such a dialogue.
What other steps might be taken?
Perhaps there is
one deeper question beneath all the others regarding art, architecture,
and spaces: How can an effective collaboration be designed? How can people
with very different goals work together effectively? Are there success
stories, not just of results but of effective collaborative processes?
How does the interaction change the work? For better or worse? Did collaboration
dilute the artistic vision or take it in new directions?
Hundreds of years
ago, modern science began to take shape as individuals collected and catalogued
specimens of plants, animals, and minerals. Without knowing precisely
where their work might lead, these early practitioners of natural history
laid the groundwork for the systematic natural sciences of today.
If the desired end
of this ISC initiative is a better working relationship between sculptor
and architect, perhaps the place to start is by collecting specimens of
effective collaboration: lessons learned from collaborative projects,
however fragmentary; case studies of successful and unsuccessful collaborations,
even when the lessons arent obvious; and successful collaborative
techniques, even if they were hammered out in circumstances so unusual
that it may not be obvious how to apply them in new situations.
architects, and urbanists are professionals in their own disciplines,
but not professional collaborators, there may be a rawness to the dialogue,
a lack of norms and standards, probably no easy consensus. But thats
to be expected when the objective is to expand the map of a relatively
new territory. Let the dialogue begin.
hope that readers will continue this dialogue. Please send your
thoughts, stories, and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your responses will be collected and posted on the ISC Web site
www.sculpture.org, where they will join some early contributions
to the discussion. This Web forum will help guide our coverage of
sculpture and architecture in future issues.