Le Journal Interviews, Voices

The relationship between sculpture and architecture: A conversation with Pablo Reinoso

The relationship between sculpture and architecture: A conversation with Pablo Reinoso

The lines between sculpture and architecture have always been blurred. We understand both have a critical responsibility to address the physical space and consider tenets of form, scale and material. Certainly by definition, architecture must also confront some utilitarian duties in addition to pure aesthetics, but new technologies and engineering has arguably freed the discipline from most of these conceptual limitations (at least in the literal facades). There is no doubt that architecture is an art, but are the artistic ideas and influences exchanged between sculpture and architecture an equal, two-way street?

We are pleased to have renowned sculptor and ArtAndOnly artist Pablo Reinoso talk to us about these ideas, his work, and how contemporary sculpture and architecture exist in a similar and unique place among the arts.


Pablo REINOSO, by François Rachline

This book is the first important monograph dedicated to the work of Pablo Reinoso (b. 1955), a leading French-Argentinian artist and designer known for his Spaghetti Benches—found all over the world—and his variations of the iconic Thonet chair.


Available work by Pablo Reinoso
Pablo Reinoso

What kind of (if any) symbiotic relationship do sculpture and architecture have? Certainly both have been greatly affected by theories and ideas originating in the other’s discipline, but in terms of form and concept, it seems contemporary architecture is much more influenced by sculpture than the other way around. What are your thoughts?
Pablo Reinoso: I am not sure that a symbiotic relation exists between sculpture and architecture even if sometimes architecture and sculpture occupy the same spaces. They remain for me two totally different disciplines. On the other hand, there exists a constant movement between the two particularly when we consider the realm of monumental sculpture. Moreover, the architects were able to push the technical constraints that apply to the construction thanks to the enormous technical progress of recent years. It allowed them to release the forms, to be freer, and sometimes approach the steps of the sculptors. But it’s not always successful, we can break free from the constraints of form only if we meet the specifications and think about the functionality of the building. Sculpture provides greater creative freedom; it is an experimentation ground. This freedom allows the appearance of new shapes and concepts that will eventually influence the architecture. If sculpture may impose its own limits, it remains nevertheless dependent on the constraints attached to the place it invests and the employed material, especially when the sculpture is implemented in the public domain. Most of the works that I realize for public spaces are accessible, the public can interact with my sculptures in total freedom, and this specific condition brings additional constraints.

Pablo Reinoso Works - Left: "Talking Bench 188" - Right: Silla de la Aromonia
Pablo Reinoso Works – Left: “Talking Bench 188” – Right: Silla de la Aromonia

Daniel Buren has said that the first obstacle any artist working in public spaces is the surrounding architecture and the work becomes either responsive or resistant to that environment. How responsive can/should a sculpture be to its environment? Are the rules the same for architects?
This is quite accurate and the work of Daniel Buren embodies this quote well. If I have to place myself in relation to this idea, I would say that my work proceeds more over the response, or the articulation with an environment. I maintain a special relationship with nature initially because my sculptures are often integrated into it, but mostly because my work is deeply linked to the dialogue that I establish with nature and its forms. I like to create a connection with the environment, the same way I like to work in line with the materials I use. I will never go against the nature of a place or of a material, I try to build bridges, to enter into a discussion. Architecture must maintain a very close relationship with its environment and especially never distance itself from the function for which the building is constructed in order to avoid a misinterpretation. The notion of function is much more important in architecture than in sculpture even if in my work, I decide to incorporate a dimension of functionality by diverting some objects.

Your work often directly addresses a site-specific space. How do you initially approach the architectural surroundings of one of your sculptures? How does it influence the work?
The environment produces signals. In principle, I like to take them into consideration and position myself in relation to them. I lean a lot on the environment, it contributes to nourish my thinking and my art. For the project “Nouages” on the banks of the Saône river in Lyon, I intervened in a context marked by architecture, and history. I was faced with an environment that is both very mineral, full of history and marked by water. I decided to incorporate all these elements in my work and give an answer to this place with my sculptures.

Do you ever get the chance, or desire to significantly alter the architectural environment where one of your pieces will live?
A work always alters the space it invests. It can provide the environment in which it is inscribed a new meaning, a new function, and a new angle of vision. The work is an element of modification of the landscape in itself.

Pablo Reinoso “Talking Bench Mal” Courtesy Suzanne Nagy

Because your work is often in a dialogue with its environment, what are the technical/conceptual challenges and advantages of implementing a work into different surroundings?
I am more often faced with conceptual problems than technical ones. The challenge for me is to build a work through a response that itself brings new questions, releases new fields of thought. It is necessary that the work remains open. A sculpture will convey different meanings depending on the environment it faces. I like this idea because it is at this point that the different potentials of a work can be observed.

How has architecture specifically influenced your work? How have you collaborated with an architect at any point in a piece (conceptual, rough ideas, installation, etc)?
I was trained as an architect and this has influenced my way of thinking. I like the idea of confronting myself with a situation, to constraints and offer an appropriate response. Thus, the influence of architecture is strong in my technical approach to a work but I move totally away from it when I enter the artistic realm where I am more intuitive, less formal. I am post-rational, that is to say that the true meaning of a work often appears to me afterwards. I have regularly been brought in to collaborate with architects. This is something I look forward to and I find these exchanges very rich. Currently, I am creating two sculptures as part of a real estate project in London along the Thames and I’m working closely with a team of architects. I naturally chose to build my work in relation to the specificities of the place and also to interact with the architectural project they created. The relationship was established from the phase of reflection around the development of the two sculptures and continues today around implementation issues. I love working in conjunction with other trades, it always sheds new light on a project or on my works.

Pablo Reinoso "Retour Vegetal 01" - Courtesy Rodrigo Reinoso
Pablo Reinoso “Retour Vegetal 01” – Courtesy Rodrigo Reinoso

How has the relationship between sculpture and architecture changed, grown, or decreased in the last 10 years? Where do you see it going in the future? What immediate trends are you already seeing between the two disciplines.
You imply that the relationship has changed, I think it is fundamentally still the same. When an architect and a sculptor work together with an open mind, they can give each other a lot. This is the case for example of Greek temples where architecture and sculpture have worked hand in hand.

I think that architecture, in the same way than art can, open up new fields of thought. This, in my view is what binds art and architecture.

(This is the first in a series of conversations about the relationship between sculpture and architecture. Be sure to check Le Journal again soon for more interesting discussions about this topic with such artists as Jedd Novatt and Pascal Dombis)