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ART & ARCHITECTURE: Reunifying the Inseparable

May 23, 2023By Anabella Alfonzo

Art should not just be contemplative,

it should be participatory.

Carlos Cruz Diez 

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of speaking at Big Pictures, an interdisciplinary conference of art and design, at the Wilson School of Design at KPU, in Richmond, Canada. It was wonderful to have been surrounded and supported by many talented creatives in the arts, design, architecture, and placemaking. A truly inspiring experience!

In my presentation, titled Art and Architecture: Reunifying the Inseparable, I shared some of my research and thoughts – inspired by the conference’s theme (imagery in the built environment), and threaded by Andrea Soto Calderón’s philosophy of the image – a journey through images, art, architecture and cities, exposing their inseparability.

Through the works of two creators (artist Carlos Cruz Diez, Venezuela, 1923-2019, and architects MVRDV, Netherlands, 1993-present) I talked about how an integrated approach to art and design leads to better, more human, more stimulating and nourishing built environments. 

Today, we, architects, designers, artists, city makers, have the power (and the responsibility) to design and build spaces that go beyond mere practical function, and to showcase, by integrating imagery and art into our spaces, the value of this interwoven approach, allowing us to tell a story, to connect with the context and the community in a visceral way, in a human way, to create a sense of belonging, a sense of place, to make our spaces more liveable and more inviting. 

We must remain curious, keep asking questions: What's the role of art in architecture? Are they really separate? Did we forget what's really important? How can we do better? How can each of us contribute to making better buildings and better cities?


Art and Architecture: Reunifying the Inseparable

Arising from the theme of the conference — the role of imagery in the built environment — this presentation offers a reflection: emerging from the philosophy of the image, unfolding through the creative process, and bringing us back in time as we discuss the roles of art and architecture, exposing their inseparability.

Images, art, and architecture can be understood as territories of possibility, activators of imaginaries. The visual, becoming experiential, becoming spatial. To illustrate the power of this interwoven approach, the works of two creators will be presented: An artist from South America (1970’s – 1990’s) and an architecture practice from the Netherlands (1990’s – present day).   

This is an opportunity to remember, to question our current views. An opportunity to consider a return to a unified way of creating, of conceiving our spaces, of making our cities. 

Thank you to:

Big Pictures Conference (Erin and Carley)

Espace Expression (Carlitos Cruz Diez and Joe)

MVRDV (Alex and Daan)

Also to Nick, Andrés, Marga (Bruce Mau), Johnathon, Mark, Henry, and to all of you who inspired and continue to inspire this (re)search and this journey.


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