Jack Coia and The Prototype Pavilion

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Our colleague James Robertson continues his doctoral research on Jack Coia with a presentation on his work at the Association of Art Historians Summer Symposium at the Henry Moore Institute (24-25 June 2010) in Leeds. The conference theme is ‘Architectural Objects:Discussing Spatial Form across Art Histories’, and James’s abstract is below.

The Prototype Pavilion – Modernism, National Identity and Religion in the Context of Scotland

The national and international architectural expositions of the twentieth century gave designers the opportunity to craft on a small scale, with very distilled and often experimental forms of architecture. Through their participation in such varied architectural displays, designers would very often create work which in some way reflected the ‘mood’ of the nation or of the era. One such exposition, the international importance of which has not yet been satisfactorily documented, was the Glasgow Empire Exhibition of 1938.

A team of Scottish architects was commissioned to design the exposition pavilions representing industry and institution, in a nationally symbolic gesture of optimism following decades of economic and social depression. The pavilion of the Roman Catholic Church, designed by the Glasgow architectural practice of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia, headed by the Scoto-Italian Jack Coia (1898-1981), was one of the most striking, unconventional and overtly ‘modern’ pavilions created at the exposition, particularly in a religious context, and in fact could be said to be seminal in terms of modernism in Scotland in a wider sense[1].

In collaboration with artist colleagues and student apprentices, and looking simultaneously to Scotland’s national past and to international architectural developments, Coia fused artistic and architectural themes with a provenance in contemporary Italian architectural projects. The de Chirico-influenced metaphysical painting of churches such as San Felice da Cantalice, Rome (Paniconi & Pediconi, 1934) and the political montages of the ‘Fascist’ architecture of the time, such as Terragni’s Casa del Fascio, Como (1932), are critically apparent, as are the quasi-religious architectural devices of the Exposition of the Fascist Revolution, Rome (1932). Coia effectively experimented on a small scale with architectural motifs at Empirex[2] which would subsequently evolve into the ‘architectural objects’ of much of the firm’s later, more celebrated work.

It can be argued that that Empirex allowed Scotland to experiment with, through the medium of a small-scale pavilion in a national exposition, and through Coia, the prototype for a Scottish national version of ecclesiastical modernism, with potentially direct connections to Rome, the Vatican and the Italian artistic and architectural milieu of the era.

[1] The Scottish Catholic historian, Peter Anson argued in 1939 that the pavilion ‘may mark the beginning of a new epoch in Scottish church architecture’

[2] Empirex was an acronym relating to the Glasgow Empire Exhibition

Edgar Wood 150

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Edgar Wood 150th Anniversary Events in Middleton near Manchester
Website: www.edgarwood.com
Tel: 0161 6435228 Email: enquiries@edgarwood.com

The Edgar Wood Project on flickr

Thursday, May 13th at 7pm : ‘Edgar Wood and Middleton’
An illustrated talk by JOHN ARCHER at Long Street Methodist Church, Middleton, M24 5UE. Potato Pie Supper. Tickets £5 available from Jon Miguel, Middleton Shopping Centre or S Wellens & Sons. 121 Long St. Middleton or by emailing enquiries@edgarwood.com

Friday, June 4th 1-4pm : Open Day at Elmwood School
Elm Street, Middleton, M24 2EG. Architectural Tour at 2pm by David Morris, Historic Building Specialist. Booking not necessary.

Sunday, June 27th 2-4pm : Celebration Band Concert 1
At the Bandstand in Jubilee Park. In conjunction with Friends of Jubilee Park and Middleton Band. Free entry.

Sunday, August 1st, 2-4pm : Celebration Band Concert 2
Details as above.

Friday, September 10th at 7pm : ‘Edgar Wood in Context’
An illustrated Talk – by local historian GEOFF WELLENS. Long Street Methodist Church, M24 5UE. Potato Pie supper. Tickets £5 from Jon Miguel, Middleton Shopping Centre. S Wellens & Sons. 121 Long St. Middleton or by emailing enquiries@edgarwood.com

Friday, September 10th – Sunday September 12th : Heritage Open Days
Edgar Wood’s beautiful building, LONG STREET METHODIST CHURCH will be open to visitors: Friday 10th and Saturday 11th: 10am to 4pm and Sunday 12th: 12.30 – 4pm. Guided walks to some of Edgar Wood’s other buildings at 2pm on each day.

May – August : ‘The Life and Works of Edgar Wood’
Exhibition. Daily: Middleton Arena. M24 1AG. Free entry.

Exhibition opening, all welcome …

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You are welcome to join us at at a private view on 4 May from 18:30 until 20:30 of:

Archaelogy’s Places and Contemporary Uses: An Exhibition

at Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design (MIRIAD!)
Manchester Metropolitan University Righton Building, Cavendish Street, All Saints, Manchester

The exhibition is on from 4 May to 14 May 2010.

This collaborative project was funded by a grant from the Lifelong Learning, Erasmus Intensive Programme and it started with a two-week international student design workshop in the early autumn of 2009 involving students from Continuity in Architecture Manchester, Venice, Barcelona and Catania. The workshop proposals were then exhibited at a conference at the IUAV in November 2009 before reaching Manchester this week. The design workshop was based in Venice and the students and their tutors (including Sally Stone and Eamonn Canniffe of CiA) lived in the city for the two week period. The results of the workshop, and a compilation of papers written by the lecturers who were directly involved in the project will be published in May 2010.