Insights > Special report A six-storey residential block on

Bowling Green Street in Kennington, London – designed by KMK and made entirely from cross-laminated timber.

no distinction between architecture and poetics.

It shows in his work. A self- professed bibliophile, Lynch’s designs are imbued with poetic references: take his community centre for East London Black Women’s Organisation (ELBWO), inspired by the poem ‘The Verandah’ by Saint Lucian poet Derek Walcott; or his plan for a library for Westminster City Council, which included figures of the muses designed by the artist Hilary Koob- Sassen. That project was never realised, courtesy of government funding cuts, but a third-scale Maquette was exhibited at the 2012 Venice Biennale. Even his more corporate architecture, like the Zig Zag building, a large office block on Victoria Street, remains poetically sensitive: a syncopated rhythm


of anodised fins sweep the building’s gently staggered facade, while layers of light and shade offer a more transient counterpoint in chiaroscuro.

Living in fantasy land But the balance between poetry and architecture hasn’t always been an easy one. In his first year as an undergraduate, Lynch won the University of Liverpool poetry competition – but kept it under wraps. “I didn’t dare tell my teachers,” he admits, “I think they’d have kicked me out. I’d turned up somewhere, where everybody else had maths, physics and other science A Levels. And I remember one person saying to me: ‘When I think of poetry, I think of it as being fantasy and airy-fairy – but architecture is maths and physics’. It took resistance and hard work to

claim territory for what I was doing.” Today, mainstream architecture’s attitude towards poetry is changing. Earlier this year, the RIBA awarded an Honorary Fellowship to 32-year-old Rhael Cape, aka LionHeart, the first poet-in-residence at Grimshaw Architects. LionHeart, who dropped out of his architecture degree to pursue a career as a spoken word poet, was the youngest among this year’s cohort, which included UCL Professors Laura Allen and Mark Smout and Rowan Moore, architecture critic for The Observer. LionHeart works to commission writing bespoke poems for architects and architecture firms and, most recently, for luxury car brand Bentley. As architect and poet, Fawzia Muradali Kane, observes, it’s great to see a younger generation of

architecturally curious poets being applauded, though it can be frustrating to see them heralded as the first to draw these disciplines together, when architects like she and Lynch have been working as poets, and have being working poetry into their practice, for decades. Kane, one half of the London firm, KMK Architects, also comments on the difficulty of being both an architect and a poet. “It is a tricky business weaving these two practices [together]. Being known as a poet seems to affect your credibility as an architect here. But then, I think that being an architect informs every creative act we perform, even in subtle and unnoticed ways.” For Kane the relationship between poetry and architecture is holistic, but it’s been a difficult journey of double identity. Ten years ago, she recalls, “I was two different people.” And then The Poetry School moved in next door to KMK. “I could walk over from one to the other,” she recalls, “and so they started to blend into each other.” These days, Kane is more comfortable acknowledging the points of intersection between the disciplines. “There are parallels and there are crossovers, and they do bleed into each other. For instance, in classical architecture you have the golden section, it’s so innate in our subconscious: when we look at an image we feel a proportion, there’s a sense of comfort and correctness.” Kane compares this to a sonnet, a poetic form that also “has its particular proportion on the page.”

Building with roots

Like LionHeart, Kane hails from the Caribbean – though where London- born LionHeart followed in the


Max Creasy

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