Professor Richard Goodwin

The first speaker of the Interior Spatial Lecture Series was Professor Richard Goodwin who works in the fields of art, architecture and urban planning. Since 1972, he has been doing exhibitions, both individual and collaborative, which are held in the Art Gallery of NSW, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Nuremburg Museum and numerous Regional galleries and private collections. In 2003, Goodwin received the Sydney Water Prize for his project named ‘Carapace’ at Sculpture By The Sea, and in 2004 he was awarded the Helen Lempriere Award for his sculpture ‘Prosthetic Apartment B.’ He is now teaching at the University of New South Wales College of Fine Arts. In Goodwin’s lecture, he spoke to us about his design process and philosophy of “thinking through making”, introducing his concept of ‘Parasitic Architecture.’

Goodwin thinks at various scales. The gallery acts as his laboratory then he explores the potential of his sculptures as parasitic transformations of buildings, working with the scale of the city as public art, as well as designing urban planning. Goodwin describes his parasitic architecture as “different from an extension on a building because in order to be parasitic and to radically transform, it has to break rules like go higher, go across boundaries” and possibly “make linkages with other buildings.” An example of this is the Union Hotel in North Sydney where he designed a sculptural roof to transform the old building. “Radically transforming existing buildings is the greenest thing you can do.” He believes in improving “bad buildings” instead of rebuilding, as it is less expensive and more environmentally friendly. This requires questioning how you can make ‘something’ into ‘something else.’ However, these parasites are not just decorative attachments or “brooches,” they can be inhabited or interacted with. In this way, the building becomes, as Goodwin describes, a “body.” Goodwin describes his concept of parasitic architecture through the metaphor “growing diamonds in graphite,” suggesting that the parasite “grow[s]” on top or off the existing structure. Goodwin’s idea is that the city needs to be more three dimensional with more public spaces, not just using the ground plane, that is, through his bridges which make connections in the city space.

It is evident that modelling is the most important part of Goodwin’s process for generating concepts and ideas. A lot of his work is based on the forms of motorcycle, aeroplanes, helicopters and other transport vehicles where he explores these structures at one to one scale by rearranging the forms, dissecting them or playing with various scales to transform them into a design. For example, his ‘Exploded Motorcycle’ and ‘The Winged House.’ “The resistance of the material to the idea is part of what modelling is about.” This is where experimentation, ‘trial and error’ and endless iterations are important. When designing ‘The Winged House,’ a lot of the engineering problems were discovered and addressed through building and studying the model iterations. Goodwin also works with technological modelling methods in 3D CAD and animation programs. For him, and many other artists and designers, model making is not only a tool for generating ideas, but a form of communication when presenting to clients. This makes the project much easier for others to visualise, rather than just presenting technical drawings. Goodwin also constructs his physical models into 3D modelling programs to enable him to easily explore, view and edit different aspects of his objects without changing or destroying the hand made model. This method of design can open up new possibilities; for example, his ‘Blackbird’ was generated through computer animation of an exploding motorbike, which was paused at a certain stage, then the sculpture was created from this image.  Goodwin has found that using this technology is the fastest way to re-imagine complex structures, like the components of a motorbike, as it eliminates the need to construct model iterations by hand. The result of this exploration was a unique sculpture, with interesting spatial qualities, completely different to the original form of the motorbike. Goodwin recognises that “Failures are as much part of the process as successes,” as mistakes can answer questions and in most cases be amended. Working through this iterative process, he is able to compose a more complex, and carefully thought out, series of ideas through which Goodwin hopes to not only satisfy the client’s wants, but also surpass them by creating something completely new and unexpected.

Goodwin’s design philosophy of re-thinking existing designs reflects his rebellion against his traditional education and the idea of modernism, that is, ‘form follows function.’ He gives preferential treatment to the idea, and to him, function is secondary as “humans are adaptable.” He believes that “An object that is designed specifically for one purpose can function completely perfectly as something else.” The example he used to explain this transformation of functionality was the use of milk crates by cyclists. This can be seen in Sydney, where cyclists strap these crates to the back of their bikes to use as storage. The original object was not designed for this purpose, but is performing the function required by users in a versatile way. This is not dissimilar to the way Goodwin takes the form of existing buildings and transforms them to function in the way that he wants.

‘Between a Slum and a Hard Place’ is Goodwin’s latest exhibition. One of his works presented here at the Australian Galleries in Paddington, Sydney was the installation of the body of a helicopter, which was attached to the exterior wall of the building. Visitors could look from the gallery through a newly cut hole into the cockpit and out onto the street beyond, allowing them to interact with the interior gallery space, exterior street space and the addition of the cockpit simultaneously.

Goodwin is effectively connecting people with art, by creating interactive experiences instead of simply presenting his projects as untouchable objects. This also applies to his parasitic architecture, giving function to each of his extensions by allowing them to be inhabited by people in some way.

Richard Goodwin, 2008, Richard Goodwin, Richard Goodwin, viewed 21 March, 2011, <http://www.richard-goodwin.com/&gt;

Richard Goodwin, 2004, radio interview, George Negus, ABC Radio, 6:30pm, Sydney, 23 June. <http://www.abc.net.au/gnt/future/Transcripts/s1139100.html&gt;

Fortescue, E. 2010, ‘Richard Goodwin: “Mystic Alien” exhibition, Australian Galleries Interview,’ viewed 21 March, 2011, <http://www.artwriter.com.au/?p=377&gt;

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