Dialogue: Elias Redstone - Design Bureau

Elias Redstone

photo by Valerie Bennett

Andreas Angelidakis' Troll

Andreas Angelidakis:
Troll, 2011, video still

Iwan Baan's Morning Routine

Iwan Baan:
Morning Routine, Le Corbusier, Palace of the Assembly, Chandigarh, 2010

Iwan Baan's Brasilia

Iwan Baan:
A rainy afternoon in front of the Museu Nacional, Oscar Niemeyer, Brasilia, 2010

Frédéric Chaubin's Ministry of Highways

Frédéric Chaubin:
Ministry of Highways (Tbilisi, Georgia), 2003

Mounir Fatmi's Architecture Now!

Mounir Fatmi:
Architecture Now! Etat des lieux #1, 2010-2011, video still

Niklas Goldbach's Gan Eden

Niklas Goldbach:
Gan Eden, 2006, video still

Dialogue: Elias Redstone

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Name: Elias Redstone
: London and Paris
Occupation: Independent curator and writer

To say that Elias Redstone has a lot going on is an understatement. The independent architecture curator and writer recently curated Concrete Islands, an exhibition at Paris that explores “contemporary experiences of utopian architectural projects” through photography and video. Redstone has spent time in South and Central America, where he researched and continues to write about emerging architecture practices. He is also the co-founder and editor-in chief of the London Architecture Diary, the founder and curator of Archizines, and a columnist for the New York Times’ design blog. Our interview took place in April, asConcrete Islands was wrapping up.

Is it possible to write about architecture without writing about culture?

It is possible to write about architecture in isolation, but it starts treating architecture as something separate and sacred. Architecture is, and should be, at the heart of culture and society. Without considering the culture within which architecture is conceived and occupied, you can only talk about aesthetics. And aesthetics end up being cultural signifiers anyway.

Do architecture exhibitions represent the spaces they show, or do they convey something else entirely?

Most architecture exhibitions deal with representation. After all, it is almost impossible to bring a built work of architecture into a gallery. It is argued that drawings and writings are all part of architectural practice, but I am more interested in exhibitions of presentation and experimentation where the exhibition itself is considered as an architectural challenge. This allows architects freedom to play out scenarios using the available resources and considering the constraints of temporary exhibition. Whether physical or ephemeral, such projects encourage architects to expand their practice in new directions.

Context is important, but choices are made by the artists about what is shown and what is left to the imagination.

No one can see the entire world’s designed spaces firsthand. Do we have to see a complete space to understand it? For example, how important was it to select photographs that included the areas surrounding the architectural projects being shown in Concrete Islands? Is there a type of context that is more valuable than another?

Often visiting a building itself does not tell you everything about it. Spaces can have different meaning over time and to different people. What photography and film can do is be critical about space — show us something we did not know or raise questions about it. However, the photographic image is defined as much by what is shown as what is left out of the frame. It also captures a moment in time. The work inConcrete Islands explored how some projects that were built with utopian aspirations now exist in some form of isolation — whether that is geographical, social or ideological. Context is important, but choices are made by the artists about what is shown and what is left to the imagination.

How has your work and research with architects in South and Central America informed your understanding of European and North American architecture?

I had been working in London for about 10 years before applying for the Winston Churchill Fellowship (to research the new generation of architects working in Latin America). What was most refreshing was being reminded that the world does not revolve around what happens culturally in North America and Europe, and London in particular. Certainly, there are some shared influences, but countries in Latin America have a very rich culture that is also expressed in their architecture. My research has helped connect practitioners in different Latin American countries and helped inform curatorial decisions for exhibitions and cultural programs. I am returning to Mexico City in May to take part in a program at El Eco experimental art space and speaking at the Buenos Aires Architecture Biennial in October.

Anything lately that has made you look twice?

Frédéric Chaubin’s photography of extraordinary buildings he has discovered in the ex-USSR. The images are often beautiful and shocking – not what you would expect from architects in former Soviet states. His book, Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed, has just been published by Taschen.

What designer or studio should we have started watching yesterday?

A young architecture practice in Paris, La Ville Rayée, started by David ApheceixBenjamin Lafore andSébastien Martinez Barat. They are very talented and punching well above their weight, delivering projects in partnership with the likes of the Pompidou Centre and outdoor advertising company JCDecaux. Benjamin and Sébastien also co-edit the cultural and architectural journalFace B with Aurélien Gillier.

Best place to get things done:

Either working at home on my laptop or chatting in a bar with people that inspire me.

Best place to get nothing done:

On a beach.

Best exhibition you’ve been to lately:

Elmgreen and Dragset’s Celebrity at ZKM was phenomenal, with a life-size reproduction of an apartment building.
Pieter Vermeersch
’s recent installation for Carl Freedman Gallery in London.

Favorite person to follow on Twitter:
I have not embraced Twitter yet. I sometimes check my friends Laura Atkinson and Henry Holland to see what they are up to. Very useful when they are running late!

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