2016 Tapestry Design Prize for Architects invited architects to Develop a tapestry design for a hypothetical location. In 2016, the selected location for the design was the National Gallery of Australian in Canberra, ACT.
1st prize: Justin Hill – 22 Temenggong Road, Twilight
2nd prize: Tiffany Liew – Unknown: Author(s)
3rd prize: Sarah Lake Architects – Concrete Tapestry
People’s choice award: Andrew Foster and Jessica Kreps – Hole in the Wall
This year the ATW received an astounding 117 entries from 76 entrants from around the globe, who entered tapestry design concepts for the hypothetical site at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra designed by architect Colin Madigan and opened in 1982, and extended by Andrew Andersons in 2010.
The first prize recipient, Justin Hill – an Australian-trained architect living in Singapore, captivated the judges with the beauty of his entry and they felt that the intricateness and delicacy of his design concept lent itself to a technically challenging and rewarding tapestry that is well suited to the expertise of the ATW weavers.
The winning design and prize recipients were selected on the basis of artistic merit; ability to engage to a high degree with the unique qualities of tapestry; ability to design a major artwork that responds to a contemporary architectural space; and capacity to celebrate tapestry in architecture, through understanding of materials form, design and collaborative interpretation.
Awarded First Prize
22 Temenggong Road, Twilight
The subject is my house, where I lived through my 30s and 40s. The house dates from about 1920 and its open verandas were sheathed in black and white chick blinds, often used in older tropical houses to keep out the rain, to provide privacy, and for me to moderate internal light.
The scene is early one evening, taken from an adjusted photograph looking from the garden into my house, when the luminous blue of the short tropical twilight briefly equalises with the light within the house. Only then is the interior of the house revealed through layers of fraying blinds, window mesh, as the layers in the timber framing and walls of the house become visible.
This reminded me of stage designs I have done over the years, for example following an anticipatory opening overture, when house lights fade, and a previously invisible scene on the stage emerges from behind painted gauzes as the stage lights come up and the gauzes seem to magically dissolve. It’s an old trick of the trade and always beautiful.
In this piece of architectural theatre, a friend is about to arrive for dinner. Within the house is the silhouette of my mother and I, looking out, [taken from another picture where we were making pavlovas in my home in Tasmania recently], getting ready while the music plays. This is a memory of many evenings and the visits of friends and family over those decades to my home.
The window frames the mise-en-scène, proscenium like, while the sagging roof tiles above and the peeling painted wall below give context to the deteriorating house.
Ideally the piece could be the size of the actual window [3.525 m long]. Of interest to me is the slight impressionistic blurring of the scene brought about by the layer of the blinds, and the many blues in this piece bring luminosity and depth.
Sarah Lake Architects
Awarded Third Prize
The visual textural qualities of tapestry are akin to those of the bush hammered concrete of the original National Gallery building where the work will hang. The visual roughness, subtle colour variation, stippling, and texture are to be replicated. Where the tapestry begins and ends is ambiguous – a woven concrete wall. The tapestry is a low relief of the wall it hangs on, an interpretation and a visual illusion. It is a contrast between the softness of the tapestry and the roughness of the concrete it replicates.
The wall is in a state of destruction, at the centre is a hole. This exposes the construction and roughness of the wall but also reveals what may sit beyond, a revealing of the original geometry of the gallery which appears like a continuous, expansive pattern. The imagery of destruction is incongruous with the nature of the gallery space. It questions what this destruction could mean - is it a positive or negative change to the space? Is it a process of regeneration, preservation, renovation? Or something more sinister like that of war - a reference to places such as Syria whose cities had all the luxuries of a modern country that were quickly dismantled, now unrecognisable through war, where we disengage as the representation of the cities seem distant and unrelatable.
Awarded Second Prize
‘Unknown: Author(s)’ uses the image of a tapestry under construction to communicate the complex and incremental nature of architectural authorship.
The collage foregrounds the subject of an incomplete tapestry: a collection of reused architectural elements, known as ’spolia’. It includes an ancient Greek figure from the Caryatid Porch and a detail of St Mark’s Basilica, the largest depository of stolen architectural fragments in the world. Both are prime examples of how building elements were stolen, recycled from other places and installed for narrative effect, challenging the intentions of their previous ‘original’ authors.
The tapestry design alludes to how it would be made with an anonymous craftsman behind the loom. Tapestry and architecture are both disciplines of craft involving the translation of a blueprint to a material outcome. For this work, the woman weaves together this common thread between these disciplines, which often goes unnoticed.
This idea of unnoticed authors brought to mind the concealed vertical warp threads, which support visible weft yarns in tapestries. For this reason, the image was turned on its side to align with exposed horizontal yarns for ease of material production - silk threads could be used to highlight the warp threads strung on the loom, which screened weaving artists behind. This would appear in contrast with the duller wool fibres for the spolia.
The issue of authorship inherently leads to questions of context, communication and of assembling materials in a way that produces more emotions than matter. Perhaps every tapestry or architectural output is not in fact masterminded by a blueprint or singular vision initially conceived. Instead, every product is an assemblage of materials with several narratives, and with each, our collective memory becomes ever-the-more rich.
Andrew Foster and Jessica Kreps
Peoples Choice Award
Hole in the Wall
The ‘mining boom’ is leaving an irreversible impression on the Australian landscape. Why can’t we see this?
Perhaps we see it but it doesn’t register within us. This tapestry piece plays with the relationship of depth and adds another dimension of spatiality to passers-by at the gallery. The tapestry appears to penetrate deep into the wall, as an open-cut mine penetrates ruthlessly into the Earth.
Its colours resemble an Australian landscape being gradually destroyed as it moves towards the centre, into the dark hole. From the outside of the tapestry, the earthen tones of the desert appear unaffected, until the disturbing cutting begins. The impressions of the ruthless digging then penetrate deeper and spiral inwards, towards a dark, unrecognisable centre.
Scale is uncertain. With little to relate to, one is unsure of the enormity of this catastrophe. One is left bewildered, curious and concerned. The concentric levels of the mine change in colour as one moves towards the centre of the work, seeming to disappear into the wall.
The tapestry is a metaphor for the violent destruction being imposed on Australia’s ancient and fragile landscapes, as well as serving as a transitionary piece as one moves towards the Indigenous galleries, adding another layer to its meaning and spatial character.
The title of this work is a play on the Australian colloquialism for an automated teller machine (‘ATM’), commonly referred to as a ‘hole in the wall’ – a money dispensing apparatus. Similarly, the concept of a mine is exactly that: a hole in the earth, torn up and dispensed in exchange for economic gain.