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Philip Beesley

(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Philip Beesley, Hylozoic Soil (2007)
Philip Beesley, Hylozoic Soil, 2007 Philip Beesley in collaboration with Warren Seelig, Haystack Veil, 1997 Philip Beesley, Erratics Net, 1998
After studying fine art at Queen’s University (Kingston, Canada), Philip Beesley completed a degree in architecture at the University of Toronto (Canada). Today he runs his own firm in Toronto where he designs public and residential buildings and oversees design projects for the performing arts and exhibitions. Beesley has earned several prestigious awards for his architectural work, including the Ontario Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Architecture and the Prix de Rome for Architecture in 1995. He teaches at the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo where he also co-directs the Integrated Centre for Visualization, Design and Manufacturing (ICVDM).

The research conducted by Beesley at the ICVDM concerns textile lattices in architecture and focuses particularly on interlinked mesh structures, lightweight materials, and offset and assembly systems ensuring the sturdiness of such structures. His works are inspired by the organic world and traditional weaving techniques. They are, however, created thanks to sophisticated visualization tools, digital technologies for graphic design, and devices allowing rapid prototyping.

From his work with architectural textiles, Beesley has produced several sculptures and installations, often in collaboration with sculptors and artisans. These works are characterized by large mesh surfaces produced by the repetition of identical interlinked elements. The proliferation of patterns evokes the growth process in the organic world.

Several of his works are incorporated directly into nature. One such work is Haystack Veil (1997) made up of 30,000 twigs arranged as a mesh cloaking a moss and lichen covered cliff on the Atlantic coast in Maine. In his Erratics Net (1998), interlinked wire fabric formed a giant net on a Nova Scotia coast and helped local vegetation to grow.

These projects call to mind the geotextiles used in the construction and horticulture sectors. Yet the projects highlight the harmonious relationship between nature and human creation and rely heavily on the emotional response in individuals who encounter the works. By playing on the analogies between fabrics and architectural textiles, between human skin and synthetic skin, the works explore individual boundaries, both psychological and physical.

In 2001, Beesley organized the conference On Growth and Form: The Engineering of Nature in collaboration with Sarah Bonnemaison from Dalhousie University (Halifax, Canada). This event brought together many researchers and practitioners in the fields of architectural textiles and biology who were working with new technologies. The conference’s aim was to examine the complex relationships between nature and human artifice in the contemporary world. An exhibition held at the Textile Museum of Canada on this occasion presented several works addressing this same theme.

Hylozoic Soil (2007) was shown at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from September 20 to December 9, 2007, for the exhibition e-art: New Technologies and Contemporary Art, Ten Years of Accomplishments by the Daniel Langlois Foundation.

Sylvie Parent © 2003 FDL