Confront the Liability – In Design & Life

by Mark

This image is by American artist Chuck Close.  It is a large piece nearly 3m high and over 2m wide hanging in the National Gallery of Australia.

The portrait captured my attention however I questioned why anyone would create a painstaking artwork that simulated a photograph.

I wondered about the value of this work until I researched the artist and read that Close was born with a condition called Prosopagnosia, or facial blindness, which rendered him with an inability to recall faces.

As if that wasn’t enough, Close had a catastrophic spinal artery collapse at age 48 leaving him severely paralysed and he has relied on a wheelchair ever since.  Close called that day “The Event” and for months he was in rehabilitation strengthening his muscles with physical therapy.  He soon had slight movement in his arms and could walk only a few steps at a time.  With a brush taped onto his wrist he continued to paint, creating large portraits in low-resolution grid squares created by an assistant.

A long standing tenet of my architectural philosophy is that if you confront the liability (perhaps a difficult aspect of the site) and turn this into an asset, the rest of the design may just fall into place.  Ignore the liability and it will always be a problem – and the design compromised.  

Chuck Close is an individual confronting his biggest challenges and achieving international fame as a photorealist.  He confronted his liability and pushed through major setbacks using, and trusting, his creativity.  This inspiring story should encourage us to never give up and be experimental where we are gifted while tackling any liabilities head on.  Perhaps it is our biggest challenges that will inspire our greatest work.


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