“The Art of Architecture and Design”

Architecture has often in the past been considered to be the mother of all the arts in that it traditionally combined and included painting, sculpture, the decorative arts, and even metal working and glassmaking. In the creation of the design, architects employed the arts of drawing, model making and geometry. Although the practice and form of architecture has been transformed many times since the beginning of the art form thousands of years ago, much remains the same. Architects still use drawings and models to contemplate a structure before it is complete and still seek to create a sculptural expression that blends the sense of volume, color, texture and even sound into the final work of art.

The Newport Architectural Forum is working with the American Institute of Architects to present a show at the Spring Bull Gallery on Bellevue Avenue that seeks to capture the way art is used in creating designs but also in that architecture is often used to inspire artists. The show is entitled “The Art of Architecture and Design,” and will be on display at the Spring Bull Gallery from October 6 through October 31. The opening of the show will be held at the Gallery on October 6 from 5 to 7pm. In addition to be open each day from 10-5 pm, the gallery will also be open on October 11 for gallery night.

The show is comprised of three types of work: historical architectural documents; art inspired by architecture; and art employed in the creation of architecture.  On one hand the exhibition demonstrates visually what architects and designers do, and frames their efforts in the context of the fine arts, where the disciplines of Architecture and Interior Design have traditionally resided.  On the other hand the exhibition reminds the viewer that architecture is the sculpture in which we live and work, and inspires us to think about the ineffable qualities of architecture that only art can explore.

As is demonstrated in the exhibition, architects and designers use a myriad of tools to conceive, refine and communicate their ideas so that they can be studied, reviewed and (finally) constructed.  This is an exciting time in design professions because of the wide variety of techniques employed; some individuals are working in the same technique of plan and elevation that was invented five hundred years ago, during the Italian Renaissance, while others are using the most up-to-date computers and software to design and coordinate complex parts and pieces into three-dimensional computer animations.

This year’s exhibition, which has become an annual event since 2010, includes the work of the mapmakers and urban planners in anticipation of the upcoming Washington Square Community Charrette that is scheduled for October 19 and 20. Historic maps and atlases showing the Washington Square area over time will be on display, so if you are planning on participating in the upcoming design and value setting gathering, please take to time to visit the gallery to see the archival documents that have been posted.

Living amidst a treasure trove of architectural monuments that exists here in Newport, it would be easy for local residents to become complacent to the beauty and importance of the buildings that surround them. Similarly, many think of Architecture and Design as practical professions dedicated to creating purely pragmatic solutions. This exhibition is a reminder that Architecture is indeed a fine art worthy of being enjoyed and contemplated independently of the practical advantages that architectural works create.

Ross Sinclair Cann, AIA, LEED AP, is an historian, educator and practicing architect living and working in Newport. This article was initially published in ARCHI-TEXT, in Newport This Week, February 3, 2010.