Is the role of arts and crafts in the built environment changing?
I think the role is changing. I started out as a cartographer – using maps and photographs to make models – before I became a ceramicist and I had a lightbulb moment and began producing art based around that. I’ve really enjoyed working with Metropolitan Workshop because they have engaged with the studio process of working with materials, exploring them, and trying to incorporate that into the much larger scale of architecture. The quest for me is how do you represent or make present the human dimension and scale in larger buildings. What Metropolitan Workshop are trying to do is to bring something tangibly human to the materials they are using in buildings or elements of urban design. The Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th Century evolved as a backlash to the industrial revolution, highly ornamental buildings. They took it to its ‘frilliest’ point. There is a quieter way of engaging with the human hand and eye in Modernism. And it is a wider subliminal desire, a backlash to our touch-screen, digital world, to touch a material reality. You see it in the ‘pottery throwdown’ and ‘bake-off’ tv programs. People want to make stuff. That’s where architects have been having conversations about making architecture more tangible. It gives buildings more human character and scale, not just big, slick, mass produced materials where there is very little variation in a material. And that’s what Metropolitan Workshop are getting right at Pocket Living’s tall building in Wandsworth. I was really surprised and honoured they asked me to help them work with the German cladding manufacturer (NBK) to see if he could replicate what could be achieved in the studio on the cladding panels for the building to add life to the surface, achieve some subtlevariations.
That’s what Metropolitan Workshop are trying to do with buildings. Add back a richness. All the arts and crafts skills are enjoying a renaissance.
Loraine worked with Metropolitan Workshop to produce glazed terracotta models of our buildings for a town centre regeneration scheme in Poole, Dorset. She also produced a tea set to demonstrate the colour of the glaze for the cladding of Mapleton Crescent housing scheme for Pocket.