Niall McLaughlin Architects | Unfinished
1 JUNE – 8 JULY 2007
In response to an invitation to present an exhibition of photographs in relation to his practice, award-winning architect Niall McLaughlin has curated a collection of photographs taken by people who participate in his projects: students, apprentices, architects, craftsmen, builders, clients and professional photographers. Most of the images are made, not for their own sake, but as urgent tools of communication. They are trial pieces, feints, sketches, record photo-graphs, legal documents, blind alleys and touchstones. They capture fugitive phases of the emergence, occupation and gradual undoing of his buildings.
I once heard an architect giving a lecture and he said. “This building isn’t finished yet, at least it hasn’t been photographed.” This suggests that buildings are finite objects, which have a single moment of perfection before they are handed to their occupants.
We are interested in buildings that cannot be finished. They exist in time and their components have a history. Once they are brought together they begin to change through reaction, occupation, weathering, extension and demolition. A building is a story, not a thing. It is a living system, a narrative that is always in process and incomplete. It is a coming together of different cycles and speeds of change. No single picture can describe its changing states.
Architects use photography, not as an end in itself, but as a way of representing a building to themselves and others during its conception, construction, occupation and decay. A building, unlike a photograph, is rarely literally made by its authors. Architects make representations of the building in order for it to be made by others. In this context, the tools and systems of representation stand in an important critical relationship with the building. For much of the project, they are its only reality.
Niall McLaughlin, March 2007
In 1991, Irish architect Niall McLaughlin established his London practice. In 1998 he was selected as the UK Young Architect of the Year and the practice’s achievements that followed have been recognised nationally and internationally with a range of awards for its buildings, exhibitions and publications. In 2001 he was made an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland for achievements in architecture. Three recent RIBA Awards include the Built Environment Centre in Hull, the Bandstand in Bexhill and a Peabody Low Cost Housing project. In 2005, a house commission in Clonakilty won the Stephen Lawrence Prize for Best Building Under £1 Million.