Durden & Leal

Built with Berta.me

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    CARLO SCARPA – BRION MEMORIAL

    This show took place at The CAVE Photography, in Porto (Portugal) between September 23th until October 28th, 2023.



    'Into the flowers that gift of life has passed.' (Paul Valéry)

    Carlo Scarpa’s Brion Memorial was commissioned by Onorina Brion and her son Ennio Brion in memory of her husband Giuseppe Brion as a final resting place for the family in the Northern Italian town San Vito di Altivole. The family had acquired an L-shaped piece of land adjacent to the existing cemetery of the town. Scarpa encircled the new site with an inclined wall separating it from the surrounding fields. The memorial houses a series of elements, that address different aspects of grief and related rituals: among them the propylaea, the water pavilion, the arcosolium under which Onorina and Ennio Brion are buried, the Brion family tomb, and the chapel. Carlo Scarpa is buried in the inner corner of the L-shape, adjacent to the village cemetery. The Brion Memorial is a place of meditation and reflection, offering solace, contemplation, and inspiration beyond the boundaries of faith.

    Anne-Catrin Schultz



    (opening extract adapted from essay in Scopio Newspaper)

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    THE IDEA OF ÁLVARO SIZA – CARLOS RAMOS PAVILION AND FAUP

    This show took place inside the Carlos Ramos Pavilion, at the Faculty of Architecture, in Porto (Portugal) between 15th and the 18th of September, 2023.



    IN PRAISE OF LIGHT AND SHADOWS*

    “Architecture is the learned game, correct and magnificent, of forms assembled in the light.”
    Le Corbusier, Vers une architecture, 1923.

    The photographic work of Mark Durden and João Leal, focusing on Álvaro Siza’s work in Porto, goes in search of shadows upon the target surfaces of the façades and the interiors of the buildings but also the multiplicity of transparencies and penumbras that unfold through their ample glazed windows.

    The photographs do not shun the presence of nature, of the inhabitant, of the citizen; to the contrary, they seek out these precise moments of the day in which, at the same time, the trees are reflected or cast shadows on Siza’s architecture and in which the human presence-absence is revealed in the objects or graffiti left on it. It is as if, for Mark Durden and João Leal, Siza’s works were blank pages waiting for daily life to be written or printed upon them.

    This perspective “upon” the walls or “through” the windows of the building takes on a near ghost-like character, something that is reinforced by its colourless tone, intentionally created by overexposure to the milky light at dawn or dusk. In these images, one feels the spectral presence of Le Corbusier or Adolf Loos – depicted in the “strip windows” or in the small “eyes” of the Faculty of Architecture building. These phantoms “live” there, reminding us that the best architecture is always the result of a revisit with and a crisscrossing of countless memories.

    Álvaro Siza never constructed his architecture by opposing the transparency of modernity and the shadow of tradition (Junichiro Tanizaki), or by placing the purity of form in opposition with the indeterminateness of its content. In fact, he has always been adept at integrating these concepts in a sensory and spatial equilibrium, in an elegy of light and shadow, as complementary parts of “the learned game” (Le Corbusier). The photographs of Mark Durden and João Leal are the best proof of this equilibrium and this praise.

    Nuno Grande



    *This text is adapted and edited from an essay originally published in the scopionewspaper: The Idea of Álvaro Siza: Carlos Ramos Pavilion and Bouça Social Housing by Mark Durden and João Leal, 2020.

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    THE IDEA OF ÁLVARO SIZA – OCEAN SWIMMING POOL

    This show took place in Mira Forum, in Porto (Portugal) between February 11 until March 25, 2023.



    PICTURING SIZA’S ARCHITECTURE

    Architecture, and late modernist architecture especially, is physically changing and susceptible to decay and erosion. Our photographs of Álvaro Siza’s Ocean Swimming Pool span five years. It was important we showed both the process of restoration and change as well as the relationship between the materials used and the structures’ magnificent and ever-changing natural setting.

    We have been making work in response to Siza’s architecture since 2017 and this exhibition will be followed by our third Scopio publication on Siza in June 2023*. We were not trained as architects and we both have come relatively late to the world of architecture — we approach it as artists and collaborate from the dual perspective of our own very distinct artistic practices. Collaboration makes a lot of sense. Architectural experience is rich, multi-dimensional, multi- -sensorial and two people working together are much better than one in seeking to photograph the architectural experience.

    John Szarkowski’s photographs of Louis Sullivan’s architecture mark a par- ticular influence and we have adapted the title of Szarkowski’s 1956 book, The Idea of Louis Sullivan for this project. Szarkowski stated he was interested in architecture’s “life facts” as well as its “art facts” and this was borne out in his approach, deliberately framing Sullivan’s architecture in relation to life on the street.

    Szarkowski presents three or four black and white photographs of one building — we have many more and our pictures are in colour and durational. This long-form temporal relationship to architecture is important in an age and culture of image glut, speed and transience.

    Time is central to photography. Photography is of the moment and instant, and in our pictures we are very much aware of this through the shadows that play over the structures and our sense of how the architecture’s appearance is always changing during different light and different seasons. The pictures for this publication accent both the dramatic shifts in effect between overcast and bright sunlit days on Siza’s architecture and the constant tidal movement of the waters.

    All photographs become interesting as documents in time. Of course, architecture changes in time too, but buildings are (usually) more permanent than photographs. That said when John Szarkowski was photographing Louis Sullivan’s buildings in the early 1950s many were in states of disrepair and quite a few were subsequently demolished, so only the photographs remain.

    One of the issues that interests us about Sullivan’s architecture concerns his use of ornamentation and how this was seen not to fit the modernist narrative integral to his statement “form follows function”. It was Frank Lloyd Wright who championed ornamentation in Sullivan and referred to his poetic lyrical style.

    One of our simple discoveries in picturing Siza’s architecture is the way in which modernist structures are never blank. The white wall is animated by cast shadows, brutalist surfaces decay and wear beautifully. And this becomes for us a kind of ornamentation.

    Architecture can be brought into the contingent world through showing its context, its relation to the street and the people who use the buildings in the case of some of Szarkowski’s photographs. This context locks the architecture in a particular time and counters a desire to idealise and separate it off from the lived world. Much as we may show architecture in context, we still think there is a certain reverence in our photography and a recognition that there is something sublime and transcendent in our experience of architecture. This is very much to do with its form and the experience of form beyond function.


    *Our first two volumes in this series, published in 2020, responded to Siza’s Serralves Museum, The Carlos Ramos Pavilion, Porto School of Architecture and his Bouça Social Housing. The project is now expanding to include other architects and two further publications will follow in 2023 on Carlo Scarpa’s Tomba Brion, in San Vito d'Altivole, and Aldo Rossi’s San Cataldo Cemetery in Modena, both in Italy.



    Liverpool (UK) / Porto (PT) | January 2023

    Mark Durden & João Leal