Artist I Admire: Bill Cunningham

Okay, so I realize this confirms that I have been living under a rock. Also I realize the fact that I don’t have cable or satellite television is no excuse, as Bill Cunningham is a newspaper man, but alas I must admit I’d never heard of him until I saw Bill Cunningham: New York (great film!) on iTunes the other night.

Here is the trailer:

As discerned from the film here’s what makes Bill so admirable, in no particular order:

  1. He wouldn’t even consider himself an “artist”
  2. He is abashedly eccentric
  3. He is completely devoted to his craft
  4. He isn’t in it for the money, in fact he turns it down as he feels it would cost him his freedom
  5. He has been practicing his craft for years
  6. His photos are beautiful (IMO)
  7. He is using old school technology
  8. His attention to detail, ownership and passion of the whole process from the subject material to the photographs to the the page layouts is inspiring

Lastly what makes him truly admirable is that he’s a poet and philosopher on many levels, fashion, politics, photography, culture; He had a great quote in the movie “It is as true today as it has ever been; He who seeks beauty will find it”.

Book Review: Bing Thom Works

Let’s open with this axiom, art and more specifically architecture is culturally specific. The art and by extension the architecture that resonates most strongly with you is likely created by someone with a similar perspective or cultural background to you. This opening is a pre-emptive defence for my next statement, which is Arthur Erickson (deceased) is my favourite Architect. Why? His pioneering of indoor – outdoor, green roofs, commitment to multi-use, and commitment to his art for the purpose of social change… I know very northwest coast, which is at least in part why I look at his body of work and sigh a heartfelt sigh of creative ecstasy… it is a poetic response to the living conditions that have emerged in our corner of the shared, little, pale blue dot.

But this post isn’t about Erickson, it’s about Bing Thom and more specifically Bing Thom Works a gorgeous new coffee table book published by Douglas & McIntyre regarding the work of Bing Thom Architects.

Of course there is a relationship between Bing Thom and Arthur Erickson. Thom worked for Erickson for many years and might be referred to as Erickson’s protege, which is in no way intended to insinuate he doesn’t or didn’t have considerable talents unto himself before or after working for my favourite Architect.

The book is beautiful, itself being a piece of art. The plates featuring the architecture of Thom and his associate Architects are breathtaking. The cover is curiously a soft cover, hard cover hybrid with only a sliver of a photo taking up a quarter of the front and back and the spine… perhaps symbolizing that the book is only a glimpse into the works of his firm and that for any architecture to be truly understood, it must be experienced.

In addition to the beautiful photos the book also includes engrossing site plans, elevations and floor plans.The weakest point of the book is the actual text; however, there are still gems to be found here. The essay on being a “Master Builder”, the motifs on the client relationship and inspiring pieces on using architecture to literally improve the living and social conditions of neighbourhoods all jump out and resonate with this reader, despite not being written with the same flourish as, say, Seven Stones by Edith Iglauer.

All together, Bing Thom Works is a beautiful coffee table book, ready to inspire anyone with an interest in the built environment. It will both help a reader to better understand the limitless capacity of human creativity to shape the human consciousness, spirit, and sense of community as well as engender an appetite to learn more on this critical subject.