A brand new Czech present presents the misplaced tasks of Caruso St. John

The Ghosts of Caruso St John: A New Show Examines 33 Unrealized Projects

Caruso St. John is the subject of an exhibition in the Contemporary Art Gallery in České Budějovice, a town in the south of the Czech Republic. Models, drawings and photographs from 33 competitions and six projects show the development of the architecture office over 26 years and give 29 unrealized concepts the chance to shine.

The company compares its unrealized output with the design of an imaginary city. When Adam Caruso and Peter St John founded their studio in 1990, they took part in competitions once or twice a year. Today it’s between five and ten, sometimes more. Despite the high risk of failure due to the tough competitive nature of the projects and tough juries with different interests, the practice continues to invest time and money in the competitive process. The art of the competition lies not only in the idea, but also in the presentation, the practicality and above all in the clarity for the architects.

Although the competitive process is risky, it has enabled Caruso St John to develop and demonstrate the aspirations of his practice

The exhibition examines both the competition process itself and the architecture, showcasing books made with original A2 plates and models submitted by the office. This is where the exhibition is most revealing, showing the evolution of Caruso St. John through a collection of projects and ideas that show architects’ increasing attention to history and context. Curator Michal Škoda describes her work as strong and poetic. “I am fascinated by your feeling for the place, but also for the material and details,” he says. “It is important not only to build, but also to reconstruct, and Caruso St. John strikes a really great connection between old and new. ‘

Award-winning practical projects demonstrate this respectful handling of history. The 2014 renovation of Tate Britain earned them the Civic Trust Award, the New London Architecture Conservation and Retrofit Award and the RIBA Award, and in 2016 the office won the RIBA Stirling Prize for the Newport Street Gallery in London. To celebrate the physicality of these realized projects, large-format photographs by Hélène Binet are shown throughout the exhibition, showing the buildings in full color and high resolution.

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