The ghosts of Caruso St John: a new show examines 33 unrealised projects

A new exhibition in the Czech Republic delves into the work of Adam Caruso and Peter St John
A new exhibition in the Czech Republic delves into the work of Adam Caruso and Peter St John, who established their eponymous practice in 1990.
(Image credit: Jan Mahr)

Caruso St John is the subject of an exhibition at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in České Budějovice, a city in the southern Czech Republic. Models, drawings and photography from 33 competitions and six projects show the development of the architecture practice over 26 years, giving 29 unrealised concepts the chance to shine.

The firm compares its unrealised output to the designing of an imaginary city. When Adam Caruso and Peter St John first established their studio in 1990, they were entering competitions once or twice a year. Now, it’s between five and ten, sometimes more. Despite the high risk of failure due to the fiercely competitive nature of the projects and the tough panels of judges with varying interests, the practice continues to put time and money into the competition process. The art of the competition lies not just in ideas, but also in presentation, practicalities and, most importantly to the architects, clarity.

The exhibition presents books of original A2 panels and models submitted

While the competition process is risky, it allowed Caruso St John to develop and demonstrate the aspirations of its practice

(Image credit: Jan Mahr)

Examining the competition process itself, as well as the architecture, the exhibition presents books of original A2 panels and models submitted by the practice. This is where the exhibition is most illuminating, showing the development of Caruso St John through an accumulation of projects and ideas displaying the increasing attention given by the architects to history and context. Curator Michal Škoda describes their work as strong and poetic. ‘I’m fascinated by their sensitivity for place, but also for material and detail,’ he says, ‘It is important not only to build, but also to reconstruct and Caruso St John make a really great connection between the old and new.’

Award-winning projects from the practice have demonstrated this respectful approach to history. The Tate Britain renovation completed in 2014 earned them the Civic Trust Award, New London Architecture Conservation and Retrofit Award and RIBA Award, and in 2016 the practice won the RIBA Stirling Prize for Newport Street Gallery in London. Celebrating the physicality of these realised projects, large-scale photography by Hélène Binet is displayed across the exhibition, showing the buildings in full colour and high definition.

The exhibition shows the original panels from A2 books that were submitted to 33 competitions

The exhibition shows the original panels from A2 books that were submitted to 33 competitions since the firm's inauguration, along with six projects that have since been realised

(Image credit: Jan Mahr)

The first room displays five large building models

The first room displays five large building models – one completed building, one in development and three unsuccessful competition designs

(Image credit: Jan Mahr)

Large colour prints of photographs by Hélène Binet

Large colour prints of photographs by Hélène Binet show recently completed buildings in London, Zurich, St Gallen, Bremen and Lille

(Image credit: Jan Mahr)

INFORMATION
’Caruso St John – 33 Competitions, 6 Projects’ is on view until 20 November 2016. For more information visit the Gallery of Contemporary Art / House of Art České Budějovice website (opens in new tab)

ADDRESS

House of Art
Náměstí Přemysla Otakara II. 38,
České Budějovice

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