The Idea Of The Column
John Outram


John Outram

©Sophie Outram

The theme I'd like to take is the column. I like to distinguish the column from the pillar. The pillar I see as something which is purely physical whereas the column is something else. First of all, I have to say that the column is some— thing which relates to the wall. This may seem paradoxical but one of the objects of Modern architecture has been to remove the wall or make it wholly transparent in order to remove the idea that one space is divided from another. This is part of the social programme in architecture which has been to produce a classless society without divisions and the free or open plan is a very clear representation of this social program. If we talk of a plural culture, a plural society we begin to see the need to represent the idea of division. On the other hand, divisions are in a way hateful. So that it's, at the same time, necessary to both divide people and to offer society some kind of concept of itself as a whole. This is apart from the physical utility of walls, solid walls that is to say, impenetrable walls. Which brings us to the subject of decoration, facades, making walls into something which are legible, which are conceptually transparent if not physically transparent.


Warehouse/Industrial Complex At Poyle, 1976 - 1978

©John Outram

The first slide is of my first project as an independent office. It was designed in '75 and completed in '78, and it's theatrical in the sense that it's a large building, it's a warehouse/industrial complex of 70,000 sq. ft. In this building I deliberately applied a whole set of principles that I'd worked out concerned with urbanism. This picture is of the front of the building which is treated as the wall of a theatre. These buildings are made out of very very thin steel structures with a pitched roof and, on the other hand, the slide you see appears to be of a solid arched building and in this sense I'm using the wall as something that divides the outside of the building from the inside while representing the inside as a series of volumes.

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