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Exhibition: The work of John Glew

Tony Fretton is impressed by John Glew’s architecture and by the theoretical framework behind it

This is a review of an exhibition of the architecture of John Glew that ran for a short time in the Camden studio of Martina Geccelli in her programme Raum X. From this unpromising start I am going to launch a case for architecture that exists below the thresholds of fame in our troubled society. But before I do, let me be clear: John Glew is an exceptionally talented designer and photographer, and his website will soon carry a downloadable pdf of the exhibition.

We have to be wary of fame these days; it is sick, perhaps even mad, certainly dangerous. Dental nurses become stars overnight, their unpreparedness cruelly revealed, and then die-with-dignity in public. Party girls become singers, waste their lives, die young and are memorialised by their families. Artists exhibit a bed, tent or diamond-encrusted skull, while former commodity brokers sell giant dogs as art to oligarchs. It could all be seen as sinister fun, except that it blunts minds to committed creative work. Who really wants to be part of it? Better to produce work and develop your thoughts. That is what John Glew and other architects like him are doing. Like the Austrian architect Hermann Czech, John Glew channels a great deal of thought into a small number of things. His clients get a very high ratio of artistry and configurational intelligence per square metre on limited budgets.

An example is the house in Gloucester Crescent, which is not only full of lovely spaces but, as I see it, ideas about existence. His design for BDP of the concert hall and foyer in Leeds Grand Theatre make him the match of any of us designing today. His architecture repays sustained looking and thoughtful consideration, and by staying below the threshold of fame it does the proper work of design, which is to make a general civilised culture available through daily experience.

John Glew’s Cox House

John Glew’s Cox House in Gloucester Crescent was displayed in a recent exhibition


Venue: 185 Queen’s Crescent, London
City: London
Dates: 25-26 October 2013


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