Proposition and fantasy flourish equally in both practitioner and student categories, newly separate this year
Perhaps, due to the sheer volume and range of entries for Eye Line (this year over 350), a schism was inevitable. Communication of the core architectural concept is the intent of both practitioner and student; but while one is governed by the pragmatism of the real world, the others are free to indulge whim and fantasy. RIBAJ editor Hugh Pearman, having to reconcile parallel positions to judge the entries, felt the fairest approach was to recognise and embrace these non-convergent natures. So for the first time in the competition’s six year life, the other judges – artist Deanna Petherbridge, Foster + Partners’ Emma Gibb, Studio Seilern’s Christina Seilern, Wilkinson Eyre’s Chris Wilkinson and 2017 Eye Line winner Matthew Kernan, now of Hall McKnight – judged their ‘conscious uncoupling’ as two separate categories.
This relieved the pressure to accommodate the limitations of one against the boundlessness of the other; and perhaps the distinction allowed the previous hegemony of computer renders to yield, at least for now, to the power of the hand drawn image. It was also due to the choice of judges. Both Seilern and Wilkinson as practitioners were adamant that any winning drawing put forward a proposition or demonstrated an understanding of the construction process. Conversely, Petherbridge and Gibb were more concerned with the multivalency of the drawing – its ability to communicate a sense, a feeling; that ineffable quality that adds two more dimensions to the two-dimensional image. And as if checks to both, Pearman and Kernan took the middle ground, leading to animated discussions about entrants in both categories.
And this year, Eye Line required a consistent level of excellence across a set of images. This, contentiously, meant some much-lauded images fell by the wayside; one such was ‘Somewhere Around Here’ (above); the depiction of banal suburbia by Carolyn Kirschner of Atomik Architecture as ‘an act of protest, immortalising and aggrandising normalcy’. Petherbridge read its deadened hyper-reality as ‘curiously dystopian’ but ‘compositionally sophisticated, observed and witty’. But Seilern, while appreciating its artistry, saw nothing propositional in it. In its polarised glaring white heat of a summer’s day or by the light of its full moon, this, and other strong images, ultimately fell between Eye Line’s cracks.