Category Archives: Posts … words

Segal, part 63 : Walter Segal Open Houses 2015

The Open Houses Walter Segal Day on Saturday, 19 September 2015,  was great fun

segal-aj pic014

(The Architects’ Journal issue on Segal with my photograph of his shadow on its cover)

Alice Grahame has got a great website started at

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Segal, part 62 : Walter Segal will be back soon

Currently there is simply a cupboard not properly cleared out and sorted on this website of Walter Segal stuff here.

However, impetus is returning and soon I hope it will be stacked with loads of accessible goodies.

Meanwhile, anyone further interested – not least interested in the developing notion of using crowd funding to produce a much revised and updated version of my book on Segal which is over 25 years old – do please get in touch by email (click on ‘do contact John’ in menu on the left). Thanks to all who have already been in touch.



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Currently everything zooms – and by currently, well OK maybe it’s just that the hands on the clock spin ever faster the older you get, and I find that difficult to accept.

Anyway, I plan to return here one day… soon?  Meanwhile Cognoscenti seems to fill it all, and my blogs seen here offer glancing record of how these months speed by, planning tours, leading tours, preparing tours.

No sooner was our Edge of Empire tour successfully run for the first time last month but we were off researching and outlining our The World Piero Knew (at another, smaller, three way edge – for his home town was and is at the junction of the Marche, Toscana and Umbria), and now having stopped for a couple of breaths, this week we are off west into the Veneto foothills to put last details in place for our Terraferma tour.  Then August is free and empty – to be filled with everything left over for the past half year – before our Renaissance City tour goes south to Ferrara and Cesena and Rimini and Urbino in September. (And that publicity in May – below – was really generous of Dennis Aubrey – the creator, with his partner, of the beautifilled and thoughtfilled Via Lucis website.  Thank you.).

Excuse the rush.  Speak to you later.

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 21.52.59

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Adding a new tour

We are off to Padova tomorrow to finalise details of our new tour to the west and north of Venice…

For a new vision of a tour, what about this – “the knight’s tour” ; is it not a most wonderful image:


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Great art and great architecture: a symbiosis

On April 1st, Keys to a passion, a landmark exhibition opened at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.  We were the first people in as the doors opened at 10.00, that bitingly cold morning.

‘The world’s greatest architecture reflecting the world’s greatest art’ – they say; not advertising handbags but promoting their wildly hyped and discussed new building by Frank Gehry in the Bois de Boulogne.

Two images,  taken that morning, perhaps illustrate that motto to perfection.

Fondation Louis Vuitton 1 April 2015 - a

Fondation Louis Vuitton 1 April 2015 – a


Fondation Louis Vuitton 1 April 2015 – b


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Photographic Exhibition in Lewes: 7th to 26th March 2015

This gallery of 64 images, gives clues to my exhibition of photographs, On the Impossibility of Truly Seeing what is in Front of the Eyes, which opened at The House of Friendship on the High Street, Lewes and remains until 26th March.

Each picture, at a reasonable size and distance from the eyes, can speak for itself.

Some are simple, more or less appealing, arrangements of form and colour.   Others have many more layers of potential signification.   Some are in obvious groups of two or three.   Verbal explanation of images is perhaps even less useful than verbal explanations of music.

One room of the exhibition has rectangular glass covered images lit with sparkling lights; the other, filled with square canvas images, is very different.

I am interested in layers and veils, in transparencies and reflections.   I am not interested in post-click electronic manipulations. I comment further here.

Francis Bacon once exhibited a magisterial triptich in Museo Correr in Piazza S Marco, Venezia, daylit from tall windows, consciously aware of the role of reflection from the paintings’ glass coverings on the viewer’s contemplation.

I owe much thanks to David Botibol for assembling this gallery on the eve of the show which opened in Lewes on 7th March.   One day I’ll learn how properly to do this myself!  Thank you David.

When I say this gallery gives clues to the exhibition, two conditions distance it.  Not just the obvious one – that the viewer’s experience in a room with many images swarming around the peripheral vision, but where one is directly facing the eyes, is quite different from this electronic screen-‘n’-click you are engaged with at this moment.  The other is that there are exhibition images not here; and there are images here not in the exhibition.  That’s life.


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In restauro – mea culpa

“Why is there not a single one of the images in your new exhibition in the gallery on your website?  This is absurd!”

I know, I know.   Apologies.

So much of this website is “under restoration” because I simply have had an amazingly busy past 18 months, and all attempts to sort out the galleries of photographs and drawings remain incomplete!

Anyway, here’s a few from the Lewes show from 7th to 26th March, hopefully offering some careful reflection.

window into art-1

window into art-1

Window into art-2

Window into art-2

Cordoba reflections

Cordoba reflections

Barcelona reflections

Barcelona reflections

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On the Impossibility of Truly Seeing What is in Front of the Eyes

My photographs – 75 or so of them – are on show in Lewes from 7th to 26th March.

It’s an experiment.   Well let’s see what they look like on the walls in Lewes next weekend!

They are a diverse mix – some technically very careful, others much less so – but all are snapshots: images which raised an “aha!” behind my eyes and I snapped the shot.



I’ve been taking photographs since Brownie Box days, when the recording of images was closer to the mid 19th Century than to today.   Today every other watch takes pictures directly streamed to your website if you open your hand, every third official has a lapel camera permanently on and monitored and, obviously, nearly every car records everything.    But they see nothing.  Even way back in the mists of time, say a year ago, when all kids carried I-things, reminding themselves that I am here (GPS), yes I is really me (selfie), I’m going to tell you what I do (call), we actually were seeing less and less.

As capturing an image has become so simple, the real photographers must distinguish themselves more and more with the load of interchangeable lenses and great cameras strapped round the body with slogans of NIKON or CANON or whatever and tripod in over-the-other-shoulder quiver.

penetrating-eyes paint-on-paint-1

I find the technology is a wonderful liberator, letting me snap many more decisive moments than would have been possible so few decades ago.    When I remember burdening my youthful journeys with a 35mm camera for colour, a twin-lens reflex Rollei for black and white and a Weston Master exposure meter, I can scarcely believe it.

Today I try to follow the footsteps of the masters of 1930s photography who used strips of movie film in what they called  “miniature” cameras to be fleet of foot.   Almost every photograph in this show is taken with a wonderful tiny object which I slip in my pocket whenever I put on outdoor shoes.  I point and shoot.  And this is what I see.



Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 11.34.49

The House of Friendship – 208 High Street – Lewes – East Sussex – England (Tel:01273-476469)

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Charles Rennie Mackintosh and architectural experience

Tomorrow, 18 February 2015, what is billed as the first ever exhibition of Mackintosh’s architecture opens in London, having come from Pamela Robertson’s wonderfully comprehensive project at the Hunterian in Glasgow (

How can a show in a room exhibit something which is itself far larger than a room, which is an experience in space and time?  It’s easy enough to exhibit a libretto and costumes, with models of stage sets and even film excerpts, but how do you exhibit an opera?

Do you, in fact, exhibit the opera only by attending a production of the opera?  How can you exhibit architecture without, um, having the architecture there to be experienced?

JMcK-hh-e copyAnd with Mackintosh, whose achievement as architect is often clouded by the easily photographed and endlessly reproduced  imagery of his essential accoutrements and decorative finishings, the architectural experience is unusually complete: the essentially linked exterior and interior, the link of one  interior space to the next, the link of the formal armature and the tactile, precious detail.

When the RIBA Journal asked me to locate Mackintosh’s importance as architect for today, to go with this exhibition which of course I had not yet seen at all, I mused on these issues.  It was not easy to know what to say.   My piece is in their February 2015 issue,

So I have been waiting slightly anxiously for the exhibition to open.  Olly Wainwright in The Guardian has already led the myriad tweets urging that we “must go and see Mackintosh’s retrospective”.  He adds that the exhibition shows CRM to have had over 1000 collaborators – he quotes Robertson for this bizarre comment to oppose the ‘isolated genius’ picture which he claims (quoting a discussion of my book in 2000 – to be my position, though without naming me.

Ah well.  Fifteen years ago, my book was discussed by Mark Lawson on Front Row on BBC Radio 4.  Tonight on Front Row the new exhibition was discussed by Amanda Levete – who, unlike me, has actually seen the show which opens tomorrow.   She makes it sound like an exhibition of exquisite drawings of the exteriors of buildings. She says “it misses out the essence of Mackintosh.”

What a pity.


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Where has 2014 gone?

2014 began with a trickle of what was intended to be a steady flow of posts encapsulating architecture, but that soon dried right up.  With luck, the tap will be turned on again, gently, in 2015.

As tour leader to Urbino, I pose with Francesco di Giorgio Martini, that city's great Renaissance designer (photographed at Sassocorvaro)

As tour leader to Urbino, I pose with Francesco di Giorgio Martini, that city’s great Renaissance designer
(photographed at Sassocorvaro)

For 2014 also began with the new venture of Cognoscenti Travel, and this has thoroughly dominated the year – with two very successful tours to Roman and Renaissance Italy in the summer followed by one to Hannover in September, celebrating the tercentenary of the dynasty from those parts taking the British thrones.   Planning well into 2016 is underway and the first 2015 tour (Edge of Empire, in May) has long been sold out.

Do look out for the Cognoscenti website ( and please follow us on Facebook.

Exhibition of my drawings in Udine, April 2014, moves location with difficulty

Exhibition of my drawings in Udine, April 2014, moves location with difficulty – and much help from friends!

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