Kristina Dryza recently chatted with Sarah Gormley, Director of Balmond Studio about masterpieces, poetic icons and her favourite public art installations.
KD: Tell us why Balmond Studio was created?
SG: Cecil Balmond’s designs transcend the architectural paradigm. They are scaleless. You look at these emergent and generative forms, products of his research, and you see buildings, monumental art sculptures, jewellery . . . We are using Balmond Studio as the vehicle for this design evolution.
The studio is the epicentre for a variety of ground-breaking projects including a new kind of modular housing, a $400m mixed use scheme in Asia, public art works and ‘Artefacts,’ a series of handcrafted pieces. We set the studio up to create a genuinely new kind of hybrid – a laboratory of ideas, investigating and inventing. It continues Cecil’s work begun at the AGU at Arup but the agenda is bigger.
KD: You’ve spoken previously about poetic icons that engage. Can you explain further?
SG: Icons can be subtle signifiers, immaculately crafted and conceived with complex truths. In creating an icon, it’s the harmony between a stunning visual manifestation and a complex messaging hierarchy that is poetic. Balmond’s work reveals the beauty and inner poetry of structure and form-making, and people relate to this, no matter what the scale. It’s this insight that has led to us being approached to create a new Icon for Asia. There is something deeper going on – it comes from an inner logic and rigour. It’s almost primal.
KD: Nebula, the artwork created specifically for Targetti, was photographed like an Old Renaissance masterpiece. It’s been described as “geometry and light together in a world of illusion, form and art.” Why do you think the piece struck such a chord with people?
SG: Everybody is familiar with the classic Artichoke light but when it was within Nebula, it became something else entirely, infused with new meanings, no longer a light fixture. Products were re-experienced. To change a perception, to get that new thought in the passer by, that’s exciting. Navigate Nebula and you are inside live, three-dimensional, fractal space – it’s a completely new world.
KD: What makes a work of design a masterpiece?
SG: Something that resonates and moves. It can be cutting edge or ancient. There has to be skill and wisdom in its creation.
KD: Balmond recently won the IED Gerald Frewer Memorial Trophy. In your opinion, what’s the main contribution he’s brought to the fields of engineering and design?
SG: Balmond has changed how engineering and architecture is perceived, practiced and designed. Through his work he questions ideas that have lain unchallenged for centuries, toppling the Cartesian cage with his gravity-defying forms. He’s created entirely new horizons, blurring the boundaries between design, science and art. It’s spawned a generation of industry hybrids.
KD: The Gateway Building at Casper College is a fascinating project. Tell us more . . .
SG: We’ve transformed the forgotten spaces of hallways and corridors at a college in the US into provocative learning environments with a complete art installation, designed by Balmond. Integrated artworks feature on each level of the School, connecting up the spaces with a new kind of aesthetic. If you have art in a school, it’s usually a lone sculpture, but this goes far beyond that. It introduces a new kind of sensory and poetic experience for schools. Why shouldn’t students have access to art on this scale?
KD: What are some of your favourite public art installations?
SG: ‘She Changes’ by Janet Echelman, an ethereal floating net in the fishing village of Matasinhos in Portugal; the exquisite Nymph frescos painted onto Sigirya Rock in Sri Lanka. Only 22 images exist now but there used to be over 100. Dating back to the 6th century, it’s public art at its earliest.
KD: The future of design. Any thoughts?
SG: Beauty. It forms part of our search for authenticity, to have a deeper, more emotional connection with our environment.
This is a new post by David Report contributor Kristina Dryza.