ArgumentNo. 13/2021

FORM +/- FUNCTION. A Spatial Inquiry on Per Kirkeby's Architectural Sculptures

  • / lecturer PhD arch., “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest, RO


Per Kirkeby (1938-2018) was a Danish notable artist, mostly acknowledged for his abstract expressionist paintings, while his interest for spatial arts (sculpture, architecture, scenography) has been lesser outlined. Formerly trained as a geologist, his following artistic work was entirely imprinted by a certain vision of layering and superposition. While his paintings reveal this concept in a straightforward manner, his metaphorical brick sculptures unveil it in a more subtle way. Often called as „architecture without purpose”, Kirkeby’s brick sculptures are actually far more invested with spatial semantics that transcend the first layer of reading. In order to deeper examine this subject, the paper is focused on the debate whether these sculptures describe an architectural approach for spatial development or are they rather architectural scenographies that mark various urban places, with a more sculptural, non-utilitarian point of view. Are they mere limits and gradations, between the public and private, the exterior and interior or even between function and form? In any case, the versatility of Kirkeby’s brick sculptures is the real stake of the debate, since the inquiry finds are difficult to be strictly placed (sculptural vs architectural, functionless vs utilitarian, ornament vs building, matter vs void). Since the creation process itself is difficult (if not impossible) for Kirkeby to establish whether his brick sculptures were gestures of substraction over attempts of construction, the investigation eventually describes the ambiguity of these both inhabited sculptures, as well as architectural voids.

Keywords: brick-sculptures, layering, limit, void, architectural sculpture vs sculptural architecture

Published in Argument 13/