Top image: Research Design Architects, Useful Beauty, 1993-2009 – ongoing collection of mouse traps from around the world
The holy grail of invention is the mousetrap: every year 400 patents are filed worldwide for new designs. Our interest is more mundane: collection requires hunting out shops and streets that we would not otherwise see; it involves talking to people or drawing if there are language barriers. It has lead to donations. We learn strange (insignificant but interesting) facts: most of our French traps are cages made by French prisoners. Some of these are lovingly made, others not so with key trapping parts missing.
Charlie MacKeith is an architect and the director of Research Design [architecture]. He divides his time between working from studios in Lee, southeast London and his studio within Art Gene.
Charlie has collaborated with Art Gene on many projects. He was lead architect on developing our main gallery, in 2009.
Most recently, his work around war memorials (in 2013, Charlie won a prestigious competition to design a paving stone commemorating recipients of the Victoria Cross) has fed into the artwork One for Sorrow, a large component of our Fort Walney, Uncovered project.
The most important thing about a building is not how it looks but how it provides a setting for the activities happening within or around it. A really good building enhances activity.
It is by working with and for artists that we have learnt that observation of the small details of human life and interaction create the unusual and exciting incidents in a project. Artists have taught us the value of skills developed in our professional training: close observation and analysis. We are limited, however, in the expression of these insights by our formal training.
You can read more about Charlie’s work on the links below.