A meditation

Sir Ian Athfield (1940 — 2015)

For me, architecture and typography share and explore similar concerns and territories. Each contributes to the complexity of the human condition. Both investigate principles of space, volume, shape, composition, light, dark, positive, negative, tone and pitch, context, meaning, materiality and, atmosphere. Both are constructed as a response to something, and both prompt a response: an opinion, emotion, a feeling, sense of place and being, metaphysical, physical.

Looking back over the years of encounters with Ath — and Clare, and the practice, and the extended family — I see a serendipitous sequence of projects, realised and unrealised, as is the nature of our worlds, a zigzag exchange of architecture and typography, where the two disciplines have come to know each other.

At an early stage, Ath encouraged me during a council meeting for the Wellington Writers Walk project to “go bigger” with works I thought already were large-scale. That day I felt the the door open wide.

One of fifteen concrete text sculptures (Denis Glover, an excerpt from Wellington Harbour is a Laundry), Wellington Writers Walk, 2002 / photograph: Bruce Connew

 

Years later, during a brief sojourn lodging on the hill, and in another exchange, this time about way-finding signage, I invited Athfield Architects to imagine their logo, a field of letters that I had designed in response to Ath wanting the focus to shift from him, exploding high in the air, falling about the steep hillside, then rearranged to give some sense of direction up the 300+ step climb to the practice. These ‘letter-crumbs’ are my response — and in a sense, a thank you, a small gesture — to a visionary idea of community, channeled through a cascade of buildings high above the city and harbour, aimed directly at the Antarctic.

The letter ‘a’ from A Hillside Intervention, Athfield Architects, 2011 / photograph: Catherine Griffiths

 

A post and floating sphere staked into the hillside mimics the letter ‘i’ in Verlag Extra Light; a brass ‘c’ is strung on a chain about the bough of a Ngaio tree; in torchlight a fallen ‘a’ projects itself as ‘g’; a light weight ‘h’ leans against the inside of a dusty glass window to the archives; a bold weight ‘l’ is a hole in the architecture mirroring the sky, until a figure approaches and fills the space.

 

— Catherine Griffiths / April 2015

published in the Architectural Centre newsletter, an issue dedicated in honour of Sir Ian Athfield

 

 

 

 


 

04 writing & critique


A meditation
Sir Ian Athfield, 1940 — 2015
by Catherine Griffiths
Architectural Centre, NZ
April 2015

A Playlist : CG >> CG
by Catherine Griffiths
DPAG Late Breakfast Show, NZ, Aug 2014

Body, Mind, Somehow: The Text Art of Catherine Griffiths
by Gregory O’Brien
Art New Zealand #150, NZ, 2014

Nothing in Mind
by Chloe Geoghegan
typ gr ph c, Aug 2014

typ gr ph c in Strips Club
by Catherine Griffiths
Strips Club journal, Mar 2014

In the Neighbourhood
by Catherine Griffiths
Desktop #294, Australia, 2013

Interview by Heath Killen
Desktop #294, Australia, 2013

FF ThreeSix
by Catherine Griffiths
Typographica, Mar 2013

A note on the D-card
by Catherine Griffiths
Apr 2013

Shes Got Legs
by Lee Suckling
Urbis, NZ, Jan 2013

Truly, No Idea
by Catherine Griffiths
for Flash Forward, Desktop, Australia, Nov 2012

Look for the purple lining
by Catherine Griffiths
Eye Blog, UK, Mar 2012

Q&A TBI
The Big Idea, NZ, Jun 2011

Shots in the air
by Catherine Griffiths
Eye Blog, UK, Jan 2011

John & Eye
by Catherine Griffiths
ProDesign 110, NZ, Jan 2011

Quite a Blast
by Catherine Griffiths
ProDesign, NZ, Jan 2011

Inner-City Modality
by Mercedes Vicente
ProDesign, NZ, Aug 2010

Beautiful World of Typography
by Catherine Griffiths
excerpt from a talk, Govett-Brewster Gallery, NZ, Jun 2009

For the record
by Catherine Griffiths
Introduction to TypeSHED11, NZ, Feb 2009

Locating Our Feet
by Catherine Griffiths
Threaded, NZ, Oct 2008

Notes on Feijoa
by Catherine Griffiths
ProDesign, NZ, Apr 2007

Life in Italics
by Helen Walters
Print, New York, Sep-Oct 2006

Writing by Types
by Justine Clark
Artichoke, Australia, Apr 2003

 


A meditation



In 2015 I was invited by the Architectural Centre to contribute a piece on the late Sir Ian Athfield (1940 – 2015). I chose to write on the encounters between architecture and typography, our two respective practices, in the context of getting to know Ath over the years.


related links

Athfield Architects
Athfield Architects Identity
Wellington Writers Walk
A Hillside Intervention
Fifth Movement
Fran Wilde Walk


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