Sunday, October 30, 2016

Design and execution

Two exhibitions, superficially seeming so different, and yet both inspirational examples of design and its execution.  The Victoria and Albert Museum in London does it again: providing a range and diversity of examples of excellence.
The first exhibition is near the end of its life: Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design.  There are so many architectural/design projects here which I have admired over the years, such as Sydney Opera House which I have not seen for real,
the magnificent Pompidou Centre in Paris (image above from this review of the exhibition in the Guardian newspaper),
and the Penguin Pool at Regent's Park Zoo (image above from this review of the exhibition) both of which I have been fortunate enough to visit.
I was also intrigued by two more contemporary projects.  Panels of water with algae and pumped air on a building in Hamburg: the Solar Leaf system (image above from here).  Their WikiHouse ideas also have me excited. 

The second exhibition is Opus Anglicanum - English embroidery of the 13th and 14th centuries.  It is unusual to see so many high quality examples of this extraordinary work, and so I was anticipating crowds - dreading the press, the shuffle, and the reading of knee-level labels.  And yet, to my delight, there were fewer than ten people in the show when I went in.  I was able to take my time, peer closely at the exquisite workmanship, the splendid design, and the sheer beauty of the pieces.
The above illustrations and more can be seen on the Hand & Lock site (sponsors of the exhibition).  An excellently explanatory film showing the stitches used in the embroideries is in the exhibition, and also to be found here, with another film here in which the embroideries are introduced by contemporary embroiderer James Merry.
Not all the embroideries were made for the church, although the majority were.  Many also followed the other source of money: the aristocracy.  I found these creatures delightful.
Perversely enough given how extraordinarily rare it is to find whole textiles surviving after such a long time, my favourites are often the scraps and remnants - rather like my love of ruined abbeys I suppose.  I found the pieces above quite beautiful - the remaining parts of a purse made to hold a seal.

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