Talking About the Context (1992)
“Context for my teachers was the landscape. It was seen as something the building stood against or nestled into, but not as an element in its own right having an ongoing dialogue with the building.”
“Our extension to the National Gallery, for example, is a Modern building inside and out, despite its allusion and inflection to historical context. It uses Modern structural methods and follows Modern conventions in the majority of its details and spaces. Its plan is Modern in comparison with that of the building it extends; its circulations patterns and the subdivision of its spaces are in important ways different from those of historic museums. Its allusions and responses to context make Modern use of traditional themes; the syncopated rhythms and juxtapositions of columns and openings on the facade have no equivalent in traditional architecture.
The building is contextual in another sense on the inside: the galleries are designed to display the paintings in a context that suggests their Renaissance environment, but they are designed as well as handle the present-day context of large crowds of people. The context of light is important to the viewing and conserving of the art. The galleries have an engagement with light and its modulation that is more constructivist than anything in the Centre Pompidou. You don’t see the structure – but you can if you look hard.
In our opinion, contextual borrowings should never deceive you should know what the real building consists of beneath the skin. For this reason our allusions are representations rather than copies of historic precedents. The deceit is only skin deep.”