CEDRIC PRICE’S MATERIAL: A CONVERSATION WITH HOWARD SHUBERT
Gonçalo Furtado, United Kingdom, 2005
Gonçalo Furtado (GF) - Howard, how was the acquisition process of Cedric Price’s material?
Howard Shubert (HS) - We’ve acquired the archive in 3 steps. The first was in 1994, and then a second part in 1995. And I think that after the 1995, we went once in the winter and once in the summer. And I think that after the second trip, Cedric came to Montreal for some kind of a symposium; Cedric and Gino [Vale] spoke at the CCA. And at that time, we had had a chance to already organize the material a little bit and so we did an interview with [him] on some of the materials
GF - So it was a kind of help for you?
HS - Yeah because, when we were in the office going through the material, Cedric of course told us that everything was completely organized and in its place. Naturally, as we went through the [drawers] and opened things up…, well not everything was quite exactly in order, the way he’d said. And we would sometimes come across drawings that, not only did we not know what project they were from, we couldn’t even tell what was on the sheet. So we would save these up and, at the end of the day, we’d ask him to come down, or he would come down, and we’d show him these things. And he was remarkable, his memory was… . Not only did he know what project it was - and these were sheets without no stamp, no number – but he could tell us the circumstances of the drawing: what they were doing at that point in the project; why this was made; and what they were trying to figure out with it. And unfortunately we didn’t have a recorder on at that time, because we were working, trying to gather the drawings together, but we did take some notes.
GF - The [item’s] references with notes…
HS - The references … [were from the time] that we were in the London office packing things up. But when we did the recording, it was on tape. I can’t remember if we did video as well; I think it was just audio, with Cedric. But we did make notes about things like …, just little clues like sometimes you’ll see in the drawings a yellow sticker, and he’d explain that these were put on for a particular exhibition that was done. So these kinds of clues tell you something about that object… to be able to maybe reconstruct an exhibition at the RIBA in 1971 or 72…. .
GF – I had access to other interesting Fun Palace’s material… It is impressive… . Cedric Price’s former collaborator Steve Mullin made the majority of them.
HS - … There’s also a lot of photography that was done at the time of the model and some of that is interesting … Those little black drawings that you see, they look like white ink on a black ground, they’re actually drawings over a black and white photograph of that model, and if you see the original model you can tell that it’s actually a photograph that he’s drawing over. … Some … will be at the Columbia exhibition.
GF - There are parts of the archives that are not already catalogued… .
HS - What we did was we catalogued the first half of the archives, from student drawings up to about 1981; we stopped before La Villete, so around 1980’s… And those projects are very well catalogued. And the way we catalogue is by project and then, within the project, by stages. So any of the material, we’d have for any project, would be divided into conceptual drawings, design development, working drawings, models, textual documents. And each section would get some narrative description, so there would be a textual section that would say what this project is, when it came. And then there would be a corresponding part that would describe the materials present in the archive and how those related to the project itself. So for all of those early projects – maybe about one hundred projects – there is a very good catalogue record.
Howard Shubert is curator at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal-Canada. He studied Economical Sciences and History of Art and History of Architecture at McGill University and Toronto University. He currently research on hockey areas at North America sponsored by CRSH.
Gonçalo Furtado is an architectural researcher; his PhD includes a complete account of Cedric Price’s Generator and Japan Net based in archival research conducted at the CCA.