Sunday, February 21, 2010

The most beautiful building in the world.

The Foyer of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Last Wednesday was my second visit to the Constitutional Court. The first was a walkabout conducted by Justice Albie Sacks, one of the last tours he facilitated, a two hour session of the building and the art collection. He went into retirement towards the end of last year. The second visit was by invitation, to have tea with the Art Committee members, and to deliver my ceramic sculpture, accepted into the Constitutional Court's Art Collection (follow link to post entry). I was once again reminded of the incredible design of the building; perfect in every sense of the word, and undoubtedly the most beautiful building in the world.

Justice Under a Tree

The logo of the constitutional court was based on a tree rooted in the soil, and a human figure symbolising the people's right to protection under the law. The logo was therefore adopted as the symbol of the court. But more than that , the logo directly influenced the character of the design that was to win the competition for a new Court building - built on the site of the Old Fort Prison, where Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandi were once locked up.
Making democracy work, Sandile Goje (1996), linocut, 49.5x39.5 cm.

Large Copper and Brass doors (by Andrew Lindsay and Myra Fassler-Kamstra), leading to the Court Chamber (image below).

On the wall, through the doors, is a glimpse of the Constitutional Court's Logo. Based on the linocut above.

The Court Chamber.
The carpet design was inspired by a photograph of sunlight through trees casting shadows on the ground (connecting to the outside - reinforces the idea of sitting under a tree). With reference to the constitutional Court's Logo and the print that inspired the entire design concept for the building (see wood block print above).

Fingers of Garden extend into the spaces between the individual Judges' Chambers.

The Judges Courtyard.

The Quiet Heart of the Court - Judges chambers and Gardens.

The incredible spaces and forms of the building (especially the curved walls) is best demonstrated in the judges chambers. The structures extend as fingers into ponds, forming intimate sub-courtyards (Places of contemplation). I was absolutely amazed at the attention to detail that was bestowed in the design and development of these gardens; especially the structural forms, shapes and textures that support the overall design.

Justice Johann van der Westhuizen. Art works by Norman Catherine.

Delivery of Ceramic Sculpture into the Constitutional Court of SA's collection.

Last week Wednesday I delivered my Ceramic Sculpture, Exquisite Slave, Popsie (Popsy) to the Constitutional Court. The invitation to deliver the work, included tea with the Gallery committee members. The event was held in the chambers of the Chair; honourable Justice van der Westhuizen (chambers above). Also present was the incredible Justice Cameron (a world renowned member of the gay community) and Karel Nel. This was a very special event and I was presented with a generous gift; the three publications listed below - providing the written and visual documentation for this posting.

Exhibition Gallery of the constitutional Court.

The Art Collection of the Constitutional Court.

The art Collection of the constitutional court of SA has come into being through the energies of the judges and the generosity of the art community. This is an extensive collection, which forms part of the structure of the building, on every level and in every conceivable place and space in the building. These were assigned as part of a series of competitions to design the doors, security gates, light fittings and other fittings in the Court.

The constitutional court building has helped reshape the thinking about the integration of function and aesthetics in architectural projects. At the same time, it has demonstrated how artistic vision, human rights, and the working of justice can be unified by the respect for human dignity. An introduction to the David Krut publication, Art and Justice, The Art of The Constitutional Court of south Africa.

, Dumile Feni (1987), Bronze Tubing, 100x296x170cm installed at the entrance of the constitutional court.

Dumile Feni (b ....)

The two works, the bronze sculpture above and the drawing below, is the work of one of my most adored SA artist, Dumile Feni, whom I had the privilege to meet during the cultural boycott, he was living in exile (New York and London). His work was a great inspiration to me, especially his drawings. My enlightened visit to his studio in New York in 1983 is shared below.

Prisoner I, Dumile Feni. (1968), pen and ink on paper, 44.5 - 34 cm.

I included this particular drawing of Dumile Feni, because during my Fine Art Masters study trip abroad, I was fortunate to meet Dumile at his studio in New York. I had a strange encounter during this particular visit. I was not very informed about Artists in Exile. I really did not know who he was. There were many visitors sitting in the kitchen area. I decided to explore and walked into his bed room, which was also his studio, and started to admire his drawings, that covered all four walls. A large number of modelled clay prototypes, to be cast in bronze, was strategically placed on the floor ( in relation to the drawings). I was however unaware of him lying in his bed entertaining, I assume, his girlfriend. He immediately got up and treated me as one of his finest guests (a gesture I would rather not disclose). I assume very few visitors was as consumed by the creative energy and talent displayed in that room, as I was on that day in 1983. Being white, naive and with an Afrikaans background, must have made it that more special for the both of us. We went partying the night away, at some of the most amazing clubs in New York. Dancing to Tina Turner's What's Love got do with it. His passion and drawings was an incredible inspiration to me, at the start of the final stretch of my masters program. A moment which I will never forget, even though, at the time, I did not see the significance of the man - these works of art would form part of the Neglected tradition. Now they have their rightful place in one of the finest collections of art - Art and Justice. In retrospect I was a prisoner in my own skin. These works and experiences contributed to my own very liberation - sexually, spiritually and mentally.

Light on a Hill.

A view of the building, the library (repository of knowledge), which is at the bottom of the slope of the site, at the opposite end of the Foyer and Chamber. It was designed as the tallest structure on the side of the ridge - a transparent structure, so that it could be a glowing beacon.

The above images and text is courtesy of the publications, The Constitutional Court of South Africa (first ten Years) published in 2004, Light on a Hill (Building the Constitutional Court of SA) and Art and Justice (the art of the constitutional Court of SA) published in 2008.


woodfirer said...

Wonderful post and eye-opening pictures of the building!

Anonymous said...

great post eugene... it is indeed rare that an enormous undertaking like this great architectural feat would be conceived and executed from idea to completion seemingly without compromise. i'm a little under the weather and can't seem to find the link to the piece that you delivered. perhaps i'll return when i'm more clear headed. the story of how you met dumile feni is fantastic and i was taken with how fortunate (in retrospect) you were to have had it taken place in the manner that it did. the bronze and the drawing are wonderful, especially the drawing! great post.