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Allied Arts

Allied Arts: Architecture and Craft in Postwar Canada

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    Allied Arts
    Book Description:

    During periods of close collaboration, championed by figures like John Ruskin and William Morris, architecture and craft were referred to as "the allied arts." By the mid-twentieth century, however, it was more common for the two disciplines to be considered distinct professional fields, with architecture having little to do with studio craft. The Allied Arts investigates the history of the complex relationship between craft and architecture by examining the intersection of these two areas in Canadian public buildings. Sandra Alfoldy explains the challenges facing the development of the field of public craft and documents the largely ignored public craft commissions of the post-war era in Canada. The book highlights the global concerns of material, scale, form, ornament, and identity shared by architects and craftspeople. It also examines the ways in which the allied arts are mediated by institutions and the fragility of craft commissions once considered an integral part of the built environment. Considering a wide range of craftspeople, materials, and forms - from the ceramics of Jack Sures and Jordi Bonnet to the textile work of Mariette Rousseau Vermette and Carole Sabiston - Alfoldy celebrates the successes of architectural craftsmanship. The first work of its kind, The Allied Arts develops ideas about the complex relationship between architecture and craft that reach well beyond national boundaries.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8682-6
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. ix-ix)
    (pp. xi-xv)
  5. Illustrations
    (pp. xvi-2)
    (pp. 3-25)

    The Allied Arts, as referred to here, represent the intersection of architecture and craft. As the term suggests, rather than being considered wholly separate fields (architecture a profession or a fine art, and craft an occupation or creation of a lower order), architecture and craft are ideally closely linked as Allied Arts in the interior spaces and exterior construction of many buildings. In this chapter I briefly trace the relationship between architecture and craft, from the Greek vision ofarchitektonto the enduring Arts and Crafts philosophies of integrated art and architecture. At the same time, I highlight important Canadian...

    (pp. 26-62)

    The crafts have always been based in materials. Until relatively recently this grounding in material was perceived as a limitation, a reflection of a lack of conceptual ability. While this essentialized vision of the crafts persists, it is slowly eroding as craft materials become increasingly

    co-opted by artists of all backgrounds.² Critical thinkers have argued that the material basis of craft is its strength, and that this basis is closely shared with architecture. The craft community has only recently rediscovered some of the literature expressing this view. The writings of the nineteenth-century German architect and critic Gottfried Semper were particularly...

    (pp. 63-96)

    Craft products are widely perceived as objects on a small scale. Multitudes of craft fairs feature booths exhibiting objects of a moveable size, and on-line markets for easily shipped crafts through fashionable sites like are proliferating. This notion of small-scale works is also reinforced by homages to craft that focus on the hand, as found in essays such as Octavio Paz’s 1974 “In Praise of Hands” and in Richard Sennett’s 2008 bookThe Craftsman, whose cover features a seemingly wise hand gently cradling a small carved object. An intimacy with the body is implicit in the domain of the...

    (pp. 97-133)

    At the corner of Nelson and Burrard streets in Vancouver is a striking expanse of highly decorative ceramic tiles (fig. 4.1). As one approaches, the green and blue geometric design that dazzles through its deep colour and repetitive pattern grows larger until it reveals itself to be an enormous ornamental mosaic covering the lower level of a towering building. The BC Electric Building, constructed between 1955 and 1957 and now a condominium, is a twentytwo-storey high-rise. The fact that it is built in the classic modernist steel and curtain-wall style makes it remarkable that artist B.C. Binning’s ceramic mural formed...

    (pp. 134-168)

    Is there such a thing as a distinctively Canadian form of architectural craft? In addressing this controversial question, this chapter looks first at the identity of craft within postwar Canadian architecture; and second, at national as opposed to regional or local identities in specific allied arts initiatives. Problems relating to definitions of identity arose from the outset in this research project. When contacting representatives of public institutions that house art collections, I had difficulty explaining the parameters of architectural craft commissions. Did these only include traditional craft materials like clay, glass, fibre, wood, and metal? Would non-utilitarian forms be included?...

    (pp. 169-182)

    Well before this self-professed age of interdisciplinarity or, as craft theorist Glenn Adamson terms it, “postdisciplinarity,”¹ craft artists like Merton Chambers were boldly employing whatever means necessary to complete their artistic vision. The postwar period witnessed exciting overlaps between craft and architecture as they broke free of traditional expectations of the artisan as stonemason, carpenter, or stained glass artist and moved toward a perception of the craftsperson as artist. This was not a seamless transition, and debate continues today over the role of the craftsperson in contemporary architecture and art. While a postdisciplinary vision makes room for any artist to...

    (pp. 183-186)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 187-206)
    (pp. 207-218)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 219-227)