I was reminded by a fantastic photograph of Kew gardens by an ex student of mine Jamie Scott of the delicate balance and often fraught relationship between nature and architecture. This is something I’m very interested in and that I’ve been investigating at Battleby where quite a few lost structures have engaged my curiosities; vanished victorian greenhouses, lost wooden pavillions and walled gardens to name but a few. The relationship between the house and the grounds emerges as a constant source of fascination to me and one that my research keeps circling. I will post more on the subject of Battleby’s lost structures but for now here are a few structures that echo something that hold an important key for me.
The first set of images are by Mario del Curto and record the structures of Richard Grieves. He constructs houses-sculptures from found material. They are often the relics of deconstructed barns and farm buildings, reinstated as living breathing “narratives” bound by rope lest nails damage or hurt the buildings. Greaves prefers anonymity, having abandoned his current site as publicity about it and him spread, he disappeared off-grid to begin building quietly elsewhere . It is almost impossible to meet or talk with him although a great video piece was made a few years ago and can be purchased through the collection de l’art brut Lausanne. He bears comparison with members of the 1970s’ ‘Anarchitecture Group’ including Gordon Matta Clark, for instance, or Kurt Schwitters, whose Merzbauten were similarly eccentric, evolving environments.
Also pictured is the bus where Christopher Johnson McCandless (February 12, 1968 – August 1992) an American adventurer died. Chris burned all his money and abandoned his car on graduation and in a complete rejection of both family and society’s pressures and expectations set out to explore the natural world on a shoestring solo expedition funded by itinerant work on farms. he finally reached the Alaskan wilderness in April of 1992 hoping to live a life of quiet contemplation and solitude and set off with eager supplies or equipment to live of the land and find some inner meaning for his existence. His end was tragic but his story connects to many of us who question what contemporary life really offers us in the way of a spiritual answer of any real value and the biggest tragedy was that he almost managed to find it.