Real Building or Media Object? Stirling and Gowan's Leicester Engineering Building
RIBA Reseach Trust Award 2009
The objective of my research is to explore how buildings that are given higher status within the discipline as 'works of architecture,' exist simultaneously as two kinds of entities, or, two kinds of objects. The first real object exists for those who inhabit the building. Through long durations of time, its material substance and formal organization make an impression upon the institutional praxis that takes place around it. The second media object, constructed through books, articles, photographs and conferences exists for a displaced media audience. Through abstracted representations the immaterial significations of the building as media object function as a nodal point for various discourse networks in the history of art and architecture, both in the UK and internationally.
This research project takes Stirling and Gowan's Leicester Engineering Building, at the timely moment of its reconsideration by scholars and architects, in order to frame a research project into the very nature of this duality between real objects and media objects, between the building's role in local use and its role in global signification.
The research deploys a method already used in anthropological filmmaking, to record oral accounts of the building given by a wide range of possible audiences, from scholars and architects, interviewed (often by default) at a distance from the building itself, to the many past and present users of the building, interviewed in-situ during 'walk-tours' of the building. The material gathered, which will involve reflection on a range of aspects from form and history to organization, atmosphere, materiality and acoustics, will be an aid to research that explores the ontological division between the building's role as both a "work of architecture' and at the same time 'merely a building.'
Joseph Bedford is a graduate in Architecture from Cambridge University (2003) and The Cooper Union (2007), a Rome Scholar at The British School at Rome (2008-2009), and currently a PhD candidate in Architectural History at Princeton University. He can be contacted at: jbedford(at)princeton(dot)edu.