Tapestry x Architecture
There is a long-standing historical connection between architectural space and tapestry artefacts. Significant wall hangings have been used in a myriad of sizes to modify thermal conditions within buildings, for acoustic treatment of space and as didactic and celebratory objects.
Architect-commissioned tapestry is Modernism’s fabric. National legislatures in both Canberra and Brasilia feature significant tapestries: in 1973, Oscar Niemeyer collaborated with landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx for a tapestry in Brazil’s Congresso Nacional; in 1984, Mitchell Giurgola Thorpe worked with artist Arthur Boyd for the Great Hall tapestry in Australia’s Parliament House. For the Sydney Opera House, Jørn Utzon commissioned the Dice are Cast by Le Corbusier, also using his own design (Homage to CPE Bach) for the Utzon Room. For Australia Square, Vienesse émigré modernist Harry Seidler incorporated tapestries by Le Corbusier, Calder, Miro and Olsen. From the1930s, modern art was presented in tapestry form with works by Paris-based artists Léger, Braque, Picasso and Miro. Post-war Modernist architecture – especially masters like Le Corbusier – led the charge for tapestries to decorate the new architecture and space. With that came a vigorous study and newly focussed appreciation of the historical and technical craftsmanship of tapestry.
Tapestries have been made from small-scale intimate items for personal enjoyment to monumental artworks. They have been hung singularly and in powerful groupings in great public and private buildings. They have underpinned or demonstrated great wealth and they have been traded and presented as gifts to monarchs and leaders for many hundreds of years. They have been made using traditional designs and imagery, mystical and mythical themes and have been designed and utilised by the pioneering avant garde architects and artists at the beginnings of the modern movement in Europe, and later America.
In the Australian context the ATW has notably collaborated with Aldo Guirgola of MGT and Arthur Boyd to deliver the Boyd monumental tapestry Untitled (Shoalhaven Landscape) in the New Parliament House in Canberra and with Jørn Utzon to realise his tapestry Homage to CPE Bach for the Utzon Room at the Sydney Opera House.