Architecture – a Fusion of Art and Space

For 29 years, award winning architect, Geoff Lovie has been exploring the fusion of art, space and functionality to create exciting and dynamic spaces. This has occasionally ruffled some feathers, but has always been rewarding for Geoff.

Early in his career Geoff was privileged to work with the architectural team at MGT (Mitchell/Giurgola and Thorp Architects). He observed Pamille Berg’s coordination of the Parliament House art program, which influenced his own collaborative art ventures further down the track.

In 2010, architects, Aldo Giurgola and Hal Guida along side art coordinator, Pamille Berg made a presentation to the National Archives of Australia. In reference to the collaboration of art and architecture on the Parliament House project, Pamille Berg made the following comment:

“It allowed us to have the work of our Australian artists, craftspeople, designers there, embodied, taking up all sorts of things that weren’t about a painting or a sculpture stuck somewhere.”

Pamille went on to say,

“… the majority of the artists and craftspeople…who we engaged had never had a public commission before. They weren’t the names put up by the galleries. They were the people who we found, slowly, by going from art school to art school and sleeping on workshop floors, as I did, for two years; going around the country saying who are the people who can do timber marquetry in this country… It wasn’t being done in the midst of architecture.”

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The idea of integrating rather than simply placing art within an architectural context hinted at exciting opportunities for Geoff. It complimented his ability to personalise a client’s space in a unique and powerful manner.

A somewhat radical shift from the enormity of projects such as Parliament House, Geoff now specialises in residential design. His work integrates the beauty of location into the spaces and forms he creates. From elevated structures that nestle amongst a rainforest canopy through to residences that are set back into hillsides, he is continually mindful of context. For him, architecture is about the relationship between location and space and enabling residents to partake in their environment.The-Purple-House-B-7

In the 90s Geoff designed a home for his family in the fairly conservative suburb of Jerrabomberra, just outside Canberra. The utilisation of colour, form and modest cladding caused a furore in the local community. Some Residents were upset by the provocative use of colour, and what they perceived as an affront to property values by using weatherboard, whilst others loved it. Interestingly, this particular piece of design went on to win a Royal Institute of Architects Merit Award and was featured in New Australian Style by John Gollings and George Mitchell – a publication on Australian architecture.

The house was also filmed by a Chicago film crew and viewed in America and Japan. Council asked if Geoff wanted to Heritage list the house. He declined as he is more interested in the concept of Future Heritage and sand mandalas. He also believes places should develop over time.

According to Geoff, design is like a jigsaw puzzle, juggling aesthetics, functionality, economy, location, energy efficiency and impact on the environment. Ultimately the goal is to create a series of spaces that is not only pleasurable for the people that utilise it but also highly functional on many levels.

To add to this complexity, he often works with artists to further enhance the aesthetics of space. Sometimes creating theatre out of a staircase or framing views and generating spectacular pointillist light displays. He has also inlaid artwork into stairwell panels, overseen the sculpting of kitchen benches, and utilised unusual mirror forms in bathrooms.

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Examples of incorporating art work into laser cut light screens and balustrade design.

Laser cut pool fencing/balustrade design currently in production designed by Ilia Chidzey.

Working with artists is a win-win situation for him – it’s exciting, innovative and personal. The artist injects a distinctive flavour into the space and becomes a part of the fabric of the building. This in turn identifies with the owners of the building and gives them a sense of place that is truly their own.

Being an innovative and experimental architect, means Geoff has pushed concepts and boundaries throughout his career. Not as skilled in creating artistic features as an artist or graphic designer, he has consulted artists to enhance and encapsulate his ideas. He feels that his collaboration with artists leads to sensational results. The final outcome is more refined, unique and usually spectacular.

Working with artists requires a great deal of trust from both sides. While Geoff holds an image in his head of the context in which the work will be placed, the artist will have their own expression, ideas and imagery that will also come into play. Although Geoff has his own parameters for the application of a piece, he believes it is important to embrace the artists interpretation and to be flexible in the final result, while still maintaining building and safety requirements, as well as respect for the clients personal story.

Sometimes art inspires great ideas. Geoff recently saw a piece of glass art whereby a cylindrical piece tapered off into fragmented elements towards the top of the form. In a current project he is utilising this concept whereby through the use of laser cut forms, the edges of the building lighten and become fragmented . Once again, he has commissioned an artist to design the laser cut elements for him and create blade walls with lightness of edge and a sense of artistic merit.

The scope for incorporating art into architecture is infinite – from sculptural pieces assisting in the delineation of space, exotic framing of views through shaped windows, to the creative use of imagery on glass in shower areas and kitchen splashbacks or something as simple as an artwork reproduced as wall paper. The opportunities are only limited by the imagination.

The experience of place-making is an incredibly personal one, and every client has their own story, their own requirements, and their own unique experience to take into consideration. If the home can be enhanced further with unique artworks, rather than mass produced solutions the result is greatly enriched for all.