A hard bright day in Bexhill on the first Saturday of the New Year brought out plenty of visitors and I was joined by 8 students studying for an MA in building conservation plus a few others for the Walk and Talk. It was great to have a lively group of people who had lots of ideas and opinions about Mind into Matter.

We started with Tony Fretton’s British Embassy in Warsaw and the group felt that the use of materials and the articulation of planes and mass were clearly not designed to invite people in. We decided it looked like a glass fortress. The group gazed in wonder at the child like drawings and tried to work out how the fleeting and flimsy lines equated with walls and floors and acres of explosion calming layered glass (up to 30-40cm thick). The engineers amongst the group raised their eyebrows at a familiar problem and one that they had much experience of.

We then looked at the difference between the CAD drawing generated from the initial sketches and compared them with the highly detailed hand drawn plans, elevations and views of The Reform Club built approx. 165 years earlier. The architect in the group explained how abstract the delicate watercolour floor plans looked from a distance and there was a general consensus that the hand drawn lines and the time x skill element made these drawing more appealing. Someone did point out that some CAD drawings are very beautiful too.

As we walked around we explored the tussle between a harking back to medieval forms and structures and the desire of engineers and architects to explore new materials and technologies – not always with happy results. Feelings were mixed about The Oxford Museum and St. Mary in Wellingborough. The debate about the latter, in relation to conservation issues, was enlightening – one of the group worked as a conservationist in churches and felt that the upkeep and the preservation of some aspects of the Comper church would be very difficult – often because the original materials were not always appropriate or good quality.

The pervading sense of space and light in the De La Warr Pavilion, the things that I love about the building, proved to be quite contentious aspects of the host of this exhibition. Some of the group felt that the entrance was unwelcoming because there was so much space and that it was unclear what went on in the building.

The Sons of Pioneers exhibition upstairs brought up questions about functionality, materials and how it would be impossible to build most of these structures – even though that is not the intention of the artist.

The same group came along to the Thinking Aloud session and we continued to talk about buildings, particularly the Jerwood due to be built in Hastings and how a contemporary building might fit into a sensitive heritage type location. We ended the session by discussing the course they were on, their backgrounds (town planning, engineering, building conservation, architecture) and what they studied and exploring the relationship between art and architecture.

Posted by Ryan Coleman on Tuesday 5 January 2010