SAN ROCCO: Book of Copies Review

by Giovanni Piovene and Pier Paolo Tamburelli
18 February 2014 AA Gallery, London   Book of Copies, at the end of the day, is an extremely simple project. The result of a very straightforward process, it is comprised of just a few elements: a table, some copies and a copy-machine.   [caption id="attachment_2901" align="alignnone" width="360"] The minimal exhibition setup
Image credit: Valerie Bennett[/caption] Book of Copies is a collection taking the form of a library, which contains images that can be copied in order to produce architecture.This collection supports a very clear assumption: architecture is shared knowledge, therefore it is communicable, teachable and copiable. This is a very old idea, which nowadays we tend to forget.   Each book of copies is a collection of a4 photocopies, produced by an architect as an answer to a precise topic which has been set by the curatorial team as a starting point. To give the reader an idea of the range, the list of topics includes: gardens, dachas, cemeteries, sanctuaries of forgotten religions, storage to be built along highways, gas stations in the desert, archives, sacred territories, corridors, monasteries, churches, row houses, billboards, mosques, highways, houses with a round courtyard, stairs, buildings arguably built by aliens, Formula 1 race tracks, houses for billionaires, labyrinths, oil refineries, pachinko parlours, urban blocks, airports, TV towers, American football fields, roller-coasters, bars, gentlemen’s clubs, blue buildings, pyramids, zoos...
[caption id="attachment_2902" align="alignnone" width="360"] Night School Edition - Book of Copies
Image credit: Meneesha Kellay[/caption] Unlike what it may seem at first glance, books of copies do not present an exhaustive taxonomy. Books of copies simply contain a collection of examples, a tentative index of a collective architectural knowledge, without any presumption of completeness. Book of Copies is therefore a continuously evolving project which potentially has no end.   It was in the spring of 2012 when Sam Jacob provided the San Rocco Book of Copies project the proper platform it needed in order to be produced. The project became part of the Museum of Copies, the London-based architecture firm, FAT’s contribution to the 13th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, curated by David Chipperfield.  As a first step, we asked around 70 architects to contribute to the project, giving them a couple of months to produce their own collection. We displayed the resulting 50 books we received on a black wooden table divided into A4 cases, placed in the Arsenale, close to FAT’s copy of Palladio’s Villa Rotonda. The table, free from the watchful eye of any invigilator, was abandoned to the devices of the turbulent flow of crowds through the Biennale, who disturbed the meticulous order of the copies, mixing references and intentions. Over the three month duration of the Biennale the copies of copies of copies turned whitish and lost definition. Our final table was very different from the initial version.
For the 2nd edition of Book of Copies, which took place last Autumn at the AA, we had the opportunity to double our collection of books, and to build a new supporting structure to contain them – a 12-meter-long two-sided table, which partitioned the AA gallery space. During the exhibition, the AA also organised a discussion, On Copies, where the presence of copies within architecture was presented and debated between ourselves, Sam Jacob, 6a’s Tom Emerson, and Michelle Cotton, senior curator of the Xerography exhibition at firstsite gallery in Colchester. It was the first occasion to publicly discuss the project and the questions it raises on the issue of copyright.   [caption id="attachment_2900" align="alignnone" width="360"] Book of Copies Member's event
Image Credit: Valerie Bennett[/caption] We are now publishing the complete (at least until now) collection of books of copies in a set of five very thick volumes.   For more information: Book of Copies exhibition Giovanni Piovene and Pier Paolo Tamburelli are cofounders of San Rocco, a magazine about architecture On Copies lecture listing Night School Edition - Book of Copies Giovanni Piovene is cofounder of PIOVENEFABI Pier Paolo Tamburelli is cofounder of BAUKUH   Homepage image: Book of Copies exhibition opening Image credit: Sue Barr