The Art & Architecture archive at the RCA

RCA

Special Collections at the Royal College of Art Library is delighted to have received a donation of the archive of the membership organisation Art & Architecture.

Art Network and public debates | RCA Archive Main information panel

For twenty-five years, Art & Architecture (A&A) has been debating and influencing the role of art, design and building, ever since its inception at a landmark ICA conference in 1982. As an association composed of practitioners and thinkers, A&A has been an advocate for the interdisciplinary process as it has developed over the years, from a time when architectural debate was exclusively for architects, and art was much less accessible than it is today.

The archive consists of newsletters and journals, minutes, correspondence, conference and lecture documents, and various ephemeral items and posters. Many of these were designed by the legendary Pentagram agency (Theo Crosby, one of Pentagram's original directors, also chaired the A&A management board). The fifteen boxes of documents donated to the RCA reveal the context and influence of twenty-five years of commitment to a collaborative process; this continues to flourish today through regular publications and events. Its high-profile lecture series has been a constant throughout A&A's evolution and the programme has attracted a list of speakers at the forefront of their professions, including Richard Rogers, Zaha Hadid, Sir Roy Strong and many others. A selection of the Pentagram-designed posters and fliers to promote the series is reproduced here (left).

The A&A archive was presented to the RCA by two former students Graham Cooper, current chair since 1994, and academic Jane Riches, both founder members of A&A in 1982.

This display highlights a few examples of the donated materials. The archive, which includes a complete run of the Art & Architecture Journal, is available to view by appointment in the Archives Room (top floor, Library). Please contact Neil Parkinson, Special Collections Manager (ext. 4234, email special-collections@rca.ac.uk) to arrange to consult any of the material.

Table-top display case

1982-2002: From first conference to next generation

A&A was born out of a groundbreaking interdisciplinary conference held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in 1982. The conference itself represented a coming together of various strands of thought and activity which had been addressing the idea of art in public context as beneficial to the environment. Speakers at the ICA included Charles Jencks, Kenneth Frampton and Will Alsop. Art Monthly published a special A&A supplement, summarising the presentations and opening up the debate. A&A itself was formed in the wake of the conference and organised itself into four working parties, each addressing a different issue. These included Per Cent for Art legislation (promoting the notion that a percentage of the capital costs should be allocated to an artistic contribution) and Information and Education, which resulted in the newsletter (later the Art & Architecture Journal).

Twenty years later, A&A organised the Next Generation Forum, at Tate Britain, RIBA, Bristol and Manchester, to celebrate its two decades of success and to consider new approaches and aspirations for artistic interventions and collaboration in Urban Renewal. The forum included presentations by over 30 leading artists and architects, administrators and critics, including Susanna Heron, Richard MacCormac and Richard Cork.

Tower: shelf 1

Publications

The Art & Architecture Journal has always been one of the main channels of A&A's desire to communicate the issues around architectural art to the public itself. Established in 1982, its editors included Tim Ostler and, for many years, RCA Librarian Hans Brill. It was Brill who redeveloped a newsletter into the Art & Architecture Journal in 1998, turning it into a prestigious colour magazine. It is currently the only magazine in the UK dedicated to discussion of public art and collaboration between artist and architect. RCA Special Collections (Library) now holds a complete run of the journal: 60 issues published over 25 years.

A&A has produced many other published works, including directories of artists and craftsmen, the A&A Manifesto, and the Learn to See series for schools (1991).

Tower: shelf 2

The Pentagram connection

A great factor in the ability of A&A to gain recognition for its ideas was the support from international design agency Pentagram. One of Pentagram's founders was renowned designer Alan Fletcher (another RCA alumnus and former art editor of RCA student magazine ARK). With A&A, however, it was Theo Crosby and John Rushworth in particular who assisted with the design and identity for the network, in addition to producing lecture invitations, brochures, ephemera and other publicity material.

Sir Ernst Gombrich's 1992 A&A lecture was published in its entirety as one of Pentagram's influential Pentagram Papers series.

Tower: shelf 3

Events and conferences

One of A&A's first and most enduring strands was its organisation of events and conferences, and it has devised many important seminars and lectures in its time. One of the A&A archive donors, Jane Riches, oversaw many of the early events including the conferences Art, Architecture and Public Participation (Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1983) and Children, Planning and Play (1984). The Crafts Factor in Architecture (RIBA, 1985), meanwhile, featured blacksmiths, stonemasons, carvers and stained glass artists.

Lectures

An important contribution by A&A to the discussion of cross practice collaboration was a series of monthly lectures involving many principal practitioners in the fields of public art and architecture. Recent speakers have included Ken Shuttleworth, Cecil Balmond and Jude Kelly, among countless others. Sir Ernst Gombrich delivered the summer lecture of 1992, where, it is reported, his 'adamantine delivery was made even more impressive by the rolls of thunder over Leighton House' where the lecture took place. Public talks continue to play a key part in A&A activities. In 2000, A&A headquarters played host to a keynote speech by Chris Smith, then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Notes

A&A Mission

A&A is an independent association providing a infrastructure to enable cross discipline collaboration. It is a unique network providing debate and opportunities to create a more inspirational environment.

"A&A is an information network for practitioner partnerships. It celebrates diversity and the integration of skills empowering artists to participate more fully in the built environment." Graham Cooper

See RCA Special Collections http://www.rca.ac.uk/studying-at-the-rca/facilities/college-wide-facilities/special-collections-and-archives/

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