Frank Gehry, ICA Building, New York. Photographic print, A1. Photograph Courtesy of Thomas Mayer Archive
The architectural section of the Summer Exhibition is usually a problem. Not this year, however. The display has been organised by Ian Ritchie, one of three co-ordinating hangers of the entire show (the others were Paul Huxley and Bill Woodrow). He it was who suggested light as the theme of the exhibition. Hence the blue walls and plinths, because ‘blue is the colour of the sky, and one of the colours of white light’. Ritchie adds, ‘We’re therefore bringing light directly into the room.’
Light is also the subject of the quotations at eye-level along three of the walls. One of them reads ‘All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish a candle’ (Anon). Small models also run around two of the walls. They’re arranged close together and at the same height so that they work ‘like a hedge’. The phrase is Ritchie’s. He’s represented here by a series of etchings, as aesthetically sophisticated as they are architectural. One of them – of Shakespeare Bridge, a project for Stratford – is as direct and minimal as a brush stroke by a Zen master.
The larger models occupy substantial raised islands away from the walls. The corners of these islands are spacious enough for the weary to sit on, and that’s just what Ritchie wants. Among these larger models are Chris Wilkinson’s House of Human Rights, intended for a site in Milan, and Norman Foster’s model for a hotel in Dublin. But it’s the unconventional look of so much of the display that sticks in the mind – like Lebbeus Woods’s four paintings and Sauerbruch Hutton’s City Dress. This looks like a side of beef remade by a couturier. ‘It’s just an extreme example of the many different ways in which architects now communicate,’ says Ritchie.