An artful architect finds himself in a suit worth building a wardrobe round ...
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, November/December 2011
Eric Parry is a British architect as interested in the world of art as in the art of making buildings, and he usually combines the two. He has recently completed a hotly contested glass-and-ceramic extension for the Holburne museum of 19th-century art in Bath, along with an ethereal new spa for the Four Seasons Hotel in Park Lane, London, which he filled with elegant granite and limestone sculptures by the sculptor Stephen Cox. He is also the man behind the renovation of one of London’s best-known churches, St Martin-in-the-Fields, for which the Iranian artist Shirazeh Houshiary designed a daring new window. And his practice is working on the redevelopment and refurbishment of seven existing buildings in Piccadilly, for whose newly united façade the artist Richard Deacon is creating a dramatic ceramic artwork.
“I always like to be in a dialogue,” says Parry. “If you’re working with artists, the way [their work] integrates with the architecture and responds to it is absolutely fundamental.” For one of his recent projects, a residential unit for the Olympic Athletes’ Village, the budget was so tight that Parry did the art himself, adorning a series of panels on the balconies with abstract hand-painted scenes. “They’re emotional, they’re about colour,” he says, having evidently relished the opportunity.
We photographed Parry at the foot of a stainless steel-clad, 18-storey office he has built on a compact site a few steps from London Wall and St Paul’s Cathedral. The square in front is surprisingly spacious, tree-lined and light-filled for such a dense part of the city, while in the building’s covered passage he has installed a bronze water-spout and a whimsical array of circular marble and stone seats. In a world dominated by productivity and technology, Parry says these features provide “a little bit of restorative nature”, as well as “resonance and soul, a sense of the poetic in the everyday”. It’s an unexpected mix, but a welcome one.
Though he is “most at home” in loose-fitting clothes that allow him to work unrestricted, Parry is nevertheless adamant about the virtues of putting on a crisp white shirt before an important meeting. “It gives you that sense of transformation, like you’re going on stage.” Similarly, he found wearing this vivid blue suit by Calvin Klein akin to a “performance”—in a good way. “I have a blue suit at home,” he says, “but it’s a sort of dark, mercantile blue, rather well-behaved, whereas this is beautifully electric. It reminds me of those great pigmented sculptures by Anish Kapoor. It’s audacious.”
Giovanna Dunmall is a writer based in London.
Photographer: Daniel Swallow Stylist: Crystal McClory Stylist’s assistant: Dani Bavister