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gm+ad Curious Rationalism

23 Oct 2006

gm+ad Curious Rationalism 
Edited by:
Penny Lewis
Published by:
Carynx Group Limited, 2006
ISBN 1-903653-37-1

Title: gm+ad Curious Rationalism Edited by: Penny Lewis Published by: Carynx Group Limited, 2006 ISBN: ISBN 1-903653-37-1 Price: £24.99

Curiously The partnership between Gordon Murray and Alan Dunlop Architectural partnerships are essentially alchemic entities. This intangible matrix can oscillate between agitated states of fragility and volatility. Certainly the untrammelled ego of some architects can unbalance even the most assured partnerships and the whole enterprise can quickly collapse. (Consider the fate of Piano and Rogers or Farrell and Grimshaw.) Architectural coupling is endemic, especially where the skills and abilities of one individual complement the particular failings of the other. Any implicit desire to consummate this partnership can then spark the inevitable proposal of marriage and we can, of course, cite numerous husband and wife teams (including Patty and Michael Hopkins or Nina and Daniel Libeskind) that have proved hugely successful. The combination of mutual support, professional passion and unstinting love is a winning formula, but the latter can become somewhat blurred when discussing same-sex partnerships such as Johnson and Burgee or Stirling and Wilford. There is a celebrated photograph of James Stirling and Michael Wilford sitting at their respective drawing boards looking across at each other. The mood is one of reciprocity and creative endeavour. I think the same might be said for the photo selected by Gordon Murray and Alan Dunlop which acts as the opening image in their impressive new monograph, curious rationalism. Here our two protagonists are hunched over a shared drawing board, marking-up an elevational study of their Cheapside master plan. The image captures an intimate moment but alludes to a dynamic rapport between two committed professionals. This new book marks the practice’s 10th anniversary and follows on from their first book Challenging Contextualism in 2003. Certainly the practice has grow substantially in the intervening years and secured an enviable reputation. The book encompasses an eclectic collection of work ranging from a small, bespoke Studio at Dunderave Castle (which, sadly, the planners seem determined to thwart) to some massive residential blocks at Glasgow Harbour. When completed, the latter will represent their most significant project to date. However, the razing of the former Meadowside Granaries to facilitate a ‘tabula rasa’ approach to the site still seems somewhat crude when you consider how other cities (such as Buenos Aires) are subtlety engaging with surviving dockland structures in an effort to stitch the old in with the new. Certainly you cannot label gm+ad as overly polite or hidebound by conservation dogma. You may be surprised, therefore, that they see themselves as contextualists but argue that their work is “… not contextual in the sense that it has to fit in with the surroundings. It is contextual in that it is created at a point in time.” Hugh Pearman (in his Introduction) argues that gm+ad’s work “rejects typecasting and applies no formula” but simply reflects their “can-do Glasgow attitude”. Jonathan Glancy’s punchy article (reproduced from The Guardian, 3 March 2003) is equally enthusiastic about their Radisson SAS project by Central Station, Glasgow. This is a commendable publication (on many levels); production values are high, the work is wide-ranging and well documented, but just what sort of exposure will it attract? The cost of such monographs is substantial and it is still pretty rare for contemporary Scottish architects to promote themselves with such obvious flair (other than Richard Murphy perhaps). Some cynics may mutter darkly about ‘vanity publications’ but Shakespeare’s adage that “Nothing comes of nothing” remains so and the profession must invest in its own future if it is to flourish. Mark Cousins

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