David Gloster X Odile Decq: Cross Border Conversations

The Matrix of Learning
STIR X LOCO Design present RIBA Director of Education, David Gloster, in dialogue with architect Odile Decq on the joys and perils of education in architecture.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Aug 06, 2020

For educator David Gloster of Royal Institute of British Architects, London, and architect Odile Decq of Paris-based firm, Studio Odile Decq, the passion for architecture exceeds beyond an interest in architects. "Architecture has to be in the centre of the world but it should not be given in the hands of architects," says Decq while Gloster points out that "architecture which is produced by the profession is separate from the profession itself".

The two, who have been instrumental in shaping the course of architectural education for over the last 20 years, revisit their roots and contemplate the meaning of architecture in the fifth episode of Cross Border Conversations.The one-hour exchange, steered by Pramiti Madhavji (Consulting Content Adviser, STIR) kicked off with an insight into Gloster and Decq’s childhood, especially moments that shaped their journeys ahead.

  • Megaliths from the Neolithic period hugely inspired Gloster in his childhood | Cross Border Conversations | David Gloster X Odile Decq | STIR X LOCO Design
    Megaliths from the Neolithic period hugely inspired Gloster in his childhood Image Credit: Courtesy of David Gloster
  • Borromini and sacred geometry | Cross Border Conversations | David Gloster X Odile Decq | STIR X LOCO Design
    Borromini and sacred geometry (a work showing Gloster's interest in histories) Image Credit: Courtesy of David Gloster
  • Kirby Hall and the concept of displaced beauty | Cross Border Conversations | David Gloster X Odile Decq | STIR X LOCO Design
    Kirby Hall and the concept of displaced beauty showing Gloster's fascination with Renaissance Architecture Image Credit: Courtesy of David Gloster
  • A painting of Nicolas Poussin | Cross Border Conversations | David Gloster X Odile Decq | STIR X LOCO Design
    A painting of Nicolas Poussin illustrating his interest in artImage Credit: Courtesy of David Gloster

A graduate from the Architectural Association in London, Gloster is inclined towards research that intersects material technology with the histories and theories of architecture. His curiosity for the primitive was a result of countless teenage journeys to Neolithic sites, which he took with his ophthalmologist father. He recollects memories of being engulfed by the visceral spectacle of the Standing Stones of the Carnac – a place that introduced him to the idea of forms and reciprocating landscapes.

I don't have ideas...I always try to do something that gets adventure underway. – Odile Decq

One of the interesting anecdotes that Decq shares is how she got into an architectural school while braving the remarks of her father who believed architecture was not for girls, as well as how she dealt with the regressive schooling system that did not allow young students to question norms. A true contrarian, she swam against the current to learn architecture intuitively as an autodidact and instead of working with someone else, established her own practice that was a contrast to most male-dominated architectural studios of the 80s.

  • Macro Contemporary Art Museum, Rome, Italy | Cross Border Conversations | David Gloster X Odile Decq | STIR X LOCO Design
    Macro Contemporary Art Museum, Rome, Italy Image Credit: © Roland Halbe, Courtesy of Studio Odile Decq
  • FRAC Bretagne Museum, Rennes, France | Cross Border Conversations | David Gloster X Odile Decq | STIR X LOCO Design
    FRAC Bretagne Museum, Rennes, France Image Credit: © Roland Halbe, Courtesy of Studio Odile Decq
  • Banque Populaire de l'Ouest, Rennes, France | Cross Border Conversations | David Gloster X Odile Decq | STIR X LOCO Design
    Banque Populaire de l'Ouest, Rennes, France Image Credit: © Stéphane Couturier, Courtesy of Studio Odile Decq
  • Phantom - The Opera Garnier Restaurant, Paris, France | Cross Border Conversations | David Gloster X Odile Decq | STIR X LOCO Design
    Phantom - The Opera Garnier Restaurant, Paris, France Image Credit: © Roland Halbe, Courtesy of Studio Odile Decq
  • GL Events Headquarters, Lyon, France | Cross Border Conversations | David Gloster X Odile Decq | STIR X LOCO Design
    GL Events Headquarters, Lyon, France Image Credit: © Roland Halbe, Courtesy of Studio Odile Decq

Decq and Gloster agree that schools of architecture today are training students to work in offices rather than creating an atmosphere for them where they can trust their own voices, explore new ideas and pursue different disciplines. Knowing that a person trained in architecture is a problem-solver no matter what the problem is, the two strongly feel that it is not necessary for one to be an ‘architect’ just because one has studied architecture.

However, they observe that taking up the role of an architect is no easy job. “Architecture has to be the passion of your life. And if it’s not, don’t do it,” stresses Decq, who is also the principal of Confluence Institute, an architectural school in Paris.

We can’t allow anything, which is a system of matrix, to displace the basic issues of architecture which should be good for the mind and body. Architecture is a soulful pursuit. – David Gloster

The two also discuss their visions of architectural education in the post-pandemic world. Decq says there is a critical need to re-question everything that we have been programmed to believe. Gloster warns that "mastery of software is not mastery of architecture". “Such software is great but these can also be a displacement activity for thinking over a problem in a completely original way,” he says in regard to the unprecedented flux of digital tools in design processes.

The conversation also traverses to architecture and its social construct, overlaps of art and technology in the built space, profession and pursuit, and the way ahead for the shape of things to come.

This and a lot more in the video above!

Cross Border Conversations
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji and Amit Gupta, STIR X LOCO Design present candid video conversations among creative professionals across geographical borders and creative disciplines of architecture, design, art and beyond.

LOCO Design: Shape of things to come
Steered by values of leadership and integrity, LOCO Design strives to create aesthetic innovation with a creative essence enriched by design values, master artisans and technical expertise, contributing to a responsible future.
Know more at www.locodesign.in

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