Thursday, 23 February 2012

Ways of Seeing

In the 1950s poet John Betjeman emphasized the importance of setting and atmosphere in each description in his, 'Collins Guide to English Parish Churches'and recognized the needs of the modern mechanized architect tourist.

"Authors were asked to write 'setting' after a church where the site or village was attractive. I found it necessary to supply brief prefaces to each country and large city, describing it's characteristics in scenery and building materials and houses."

Similarly there is something very parochial in seeing an Apache Helicopter, abandoned after hitting power cables and sitting in an Suffolk field in 2012. This unexpected event within a field makes one more aware of the field. What critic John Berger in 'Ways of Seeing", celebrating it's fortieth anniversary, referred to as a field narrative and describing how they link to make a shared folklore. The event draws your attention to the field and, almost instantaneously, your own awareness of the field then gives a special significance to the event. Berger further states the criteria for an ideal 'field' that is useful for architects considering a sense of place in which a new building or event occurs:

But the ideal field, the field most likely to generate the experience, is:

1. A grass field. Why? It must be an area with boundaries which are visible - though not necessarily regular; it cannot be an unbounded segment of nature the limits to which are only set by the natural focus of your eyes. Yet within the area there should be a minimum of order, a maximum of planned events. Neither crops nor regularly planted lines of fruit trees are ideal.

2. A field on a hillside, seen either from above like a table top, or from below when the incline of the hill appears to tilt the field towards you - like music on a music stand. Again, why? Because then the effects of perspective are reduced to a minimum and the relation between what is distant and near is a more equal one.

3. Not a field in winter. Winter is a season of inaction when the range of what is likely to happen is reduced.

4. A field which is not hedged on all sides: ideally, therefore, a continental rather than an English field. A completely hedged field with only a couple of gates leading into it limits the number of possible exits or entrances (except for birds).

Two things might be suggested by the above prescriptions. The ideal field would apparently have certain qualities in common with (a) a painting - defined edges, an accessible distance, and so on; and (b) a theatre-in-the-round stage - an attendant openness to events, with a maximum possibility for exits and entrances. For Berger however,"suggestions like this are misleading, because they invoke a cultural context which, if it has anything whatsoever to do with the experience in question, can only refer back to it rather than precede it".

No comments:

Post a Comment