December Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists… Patrick O’Keeffe

As we approach the December Mostra, our first exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists and resident architectural fellow. The first to be interviewed is Patrick O’Keeffe (Kent), our 2017-18 Giles Worsley Rome Fellow.

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Photo: Antonio Palmieri

Patrick’s BSR project ‘Hearing spaces’ — is focused on an exploration of the use of harmony and dissonance within classical architecture in Rome, expressed and interpreted through music.

What are your plans for your residency at the BSR?

While resident here at the BSR I have been working on two projects. Although these projects are different in approach, they both look at finding alternative ways of understanding well-known architectural phenomena.

My first proposal looks at the original Renaissance proportional systems from Pythagorean/Platonic musical harmony – the project looks to create hybrid architectural/musical models, aiming to provide the opportunity for people to physically hear the proportional relationships within Renaissance architecture; in this case the Tempietto del Bramante.

The second proposal has developed during my fellowship and seeks to use eye-tracking software as a way of investigating and displaying the ways people perceive and interact with a space; it will track and compare the eye movements of individuals from different disciplines and within different Baroque spaces, focusing on Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.

What are you looking at in Rome in particular?

Each proposal will investigate a number of spaces but centre around a well-known architectural archetype from their respective period. I hope that by looking at them in a new way I will be able to provide a multi-sensory analysis of these iconic monuments.

At the Tempietto at San Pietro in Montorio, I aim to produce a cast model of the building with musical strings running along the prominent dimensions. When plucked, these will produce sounds directly correlating to the spatial ‘harmony’ within the building. Musical harmony is something I think most people can intuitively perceive, so translating a building composed on the same principles into this medium will hopefully offer an alternative interpretation.

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Tempietto di San Pietro in Montorio (Photo: Patrick O’Keeffe)

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3D printing in action (Photo: Patrick O’Keeffe)

At San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane – I have made a pair of eye-tracking goggles which allow me to track the specific route a person’s eyes follow within the space. By comparing results from people of different disciplines and within different buildings, I aim to start a dialogue about the ways in which we understand space; the results will be displayed with both images and physical models.

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Testing the eye-tracking goggles (Photo: Patrick O’Keeffe)

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Following the route of a person’s eyes within the space (Photo: Patrick O’Keeffe)

How have you found working alongside artists and scholars?

The environment at the BSR is unique. The nightly dinners have given me an amazing opportunity to discuss, share and develop my ideas in the ‘melting pot’ of ideas that is the BSR community. Without this, I am sure my second project would not have developed in the way that it has.

 


Patrick’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the December Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 December 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 December 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events)

 

 

 

 

 

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March Mostra 2017 / Meet the Artists… Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis

Over the next few days we will be introducing you in turn to our six resident artists and architects who will be exhibiting in the March Mostra, opening Friday 17 March. The first awardee in focus is Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis, this year’s Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner, who here discusses the project he is working on for the Mostra.

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Photo by Antonio Palmieri

Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis investigates the relationship between architectural ornamentation and figurative representation in Etruscan art. His research focuses on the elements that connect them, through the use of photography, writing and paint. Lewis is an architect whose projects have primarily been for the arts and education sector, and whose research has focused on the representation of landscape.

First of all, can you summarise your project?
I’ve been looking at architectural painting and ornamentation in a set of early Etruscan tombs (8-6th C BC). The Etruscans are an iron-age culture transforming into a quite sophisticated, quite internationally embedded urban culture, getting the hang of making cities, writing and new forms of art with a lot of important iconographic development. They retained a lot of iron age conceptions, and they’re making these rooms which are quite interesting because they conflate a number of different architectural features, and they are relatively early in the classical tradition, so that’s also interesting. I don’t think you could claim that they are the origin of specific architectural ideas, they certainly get things like decent columns and four cornered rooms from more-established cultures, but they are using them in a way that I think is quite telling of where and how those architectural motifs originally emerged and certainly how they can be deployed, and that’s quite useful for an architect to think about [as] these can be quite difficult things to articulate and subjects to get a handle on. So, in the set of tombs that I am looking at I have focused on a particular architectural motif which is a figurative horizon line that then becomes something that we may describe as something more ornamental. The project is really research about this process more than it is a project about making a piece.

Why the interest in Etruscans? Where did the inspiration for this project come from?
I’m not particularly interested in the Etruscans as a topic in themselves. I guess I found the rooms they were making just inherently appealing and I had a hunch they were doing quite strange things, and I still feel they’re doing quite a lot of strange things that I haven’t really got in to – this movement between what is figurative and what is repeated as a pattern and how that relates to the way it’s arranged spatially is quite complex. They’re very loose with their boundaries – for example a sea motif that very quickly becomes a setting for a real sea scene – and that is quite unusual, to jump back and forth so fluidly like that and to do it so seemingly effortlessly. And I presume that that’s because they were in a culture that was being forged incredibly quickly.

Is this the first time you’ve done a project like this? Are you used to producing work for mostre and is the process at the BSR very different?
I have made stuff for a mostra before as a student – this is quite a big part of architectural education. Usually you’re making miniaturised versions of a hypothetical building and therefore you are concerned about how it looks as a piece, but really it’s a model and you almost want to avoid thinking about it too much as a piece, because you can then fall in love with it to the detriment of what you’re modelling, which is perhaps a kind of endemic problem more widely found in society in fact, but here, if you know the end point is a mostra, you want whatever you make to read as a thing in itself. As a way of doing research, that might strike one as odd, because perhaps one might think the natural outcome of a research project like this would be a paper. But it’s nice because it means that I get a studio and the opportunity to address the material aspect of topics. and most of all because you are forced to do things in a different way.

Do you know which space you’re going to have in the gallery?
Yes, I really needed to think about the space and know what the dimensions would be before I could start making the installation – I couldn’t just make something and put it in there.

Has doing this project given rise to new ideas? Have you thought of new projects to pursue beyond the BSR?
Yes, in terms of my analysis of this topic I feel like I’m just starting. Even in looking at a specific topic, such as a particular motif in a limited number of Etruscan tombs, I feel, there is obviously a huge amount more that could be done. In terms of transforming it into something instrumental, I think it’s always interesting to think about the origins of the architectural motifs as a way of treating space and it will somehow feed in to later work. I think perhaps I had a broader interest in the interior use of colour before I arrived which has remained latent in looking a specific moments in the tomb during the time I have been here, but it would be great to revisit that in the context of what I have been looking at. The point is that colour is always spatial, so perhaps this research is one way into rethinking that topic. I think that’s something I would really like to do next.

Have you had the chance to speak to our resident Etruscan expert, [Director] Christopher Smith, about your topic?
Yes, we had a great meeting. He was very good to talk to about it. I think because he has a brilliant overview of the field and although he is not an artist himself, he has a good sense of what art is for and how art works, so I think he tried to understand where I was coming from and where an architect could play a role.

Has your time at the BSR changed the way that you work or approach a project?
I think the BSR has great resources; the library is fantastic, and you can visit all the relevant sites. I think it would be impossible for me to do this kind of research in London. So in that sense, that is great. In terms of changing the way I work, it’s possibly too early to tell. Three months is a short time and it’s quite difficult to know if any momentum can be sustained from this project. Maybe it will. What’s really nice here is that you get the chance to talk to a lot of people who work in other fields and so that might feed in to future work.

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Morgan’s work will be exhibited alongside the five resident artists in the March Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Saturday 18 March until Saturday 25 March 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Ellie Johnson

Our second century

In 1916, Assistant Director Eugenie Strong and architect Ernest Cormier briefly took up residence in the current BSR. We know a little about these early days in the building, which was by no means as complete as it is now. The east wing was missing (and not completed until the 1930s).

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Plan of the BSR with missing east wing (Courtesy of the BSR Archives)

One of the studios was the common room, and housed Thomas Ashby’s [Director 1906-25] Piranesi prints in a special cabinet. Part of the Director’s flat was the temporary kitchen. Ashby himself was at the Italian front as a volunteer ambulance driver; most of the thirty-seven men associated with the BSR, including its Italian staff, were also caught up in the war.

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The former common room – today one of our artists’ studios (courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive)

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Thomas Ashby’s Piranesi prints on display in the common room (courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive)

But the building was ours, for all that it was incomplete, and its first two residents were remarkable figures. Strong — an ebullient socialite, an expert on Roman art, polymathic, and profoundly international with contacts across Europe — is relatively well known. Her immense collection of commercial photographs of art and sculpture from several periods remains an untapped part of the BSR archive; and work on her large collection of postcards merits external funding.

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Eugenie Strong (Courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive)

Ernest Cormier stands for another aspect of the BSR. He was a Canadian architect, and designed not only the central buildings of McGill University but also Canada’s Supreme Court in Ottawa. Our Commonwealth roots and our commitment to architecture, and to excellence, come together in the figure of Cormier.

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Supreme Court of Ottawa, designed by Ernest Cormier – the first student to take up residence at the BSR in 1916 (Photo: Wikipedia)

It is fitting to remember Cormier as we also think this year of our departed and much-missed friend, Francesco Garofalo, who himself spent several years in Canada and who gave so much to the BSR. Francesco and his wife and fellow architect Sharon Miura worked on the extension of the BSR at the beginning of this century, including the Sainsbury Lecture Theatre, where his posthumous book of essays was presented earlier this month.

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Speakers at the launch of Whatever happened to Italian Architecture? (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

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Architect Sharon Miura who managed the BSR’s Sustainable Building Project with her late husband Francesco Garofalo (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

A century on from its beginnings, the BSR’s building has never been in better shape. Thanks to my predecessor’s extension, and the recent Sustainable Building Project refurbishment programme — which Sharon Miura project-managed, with architects Studio Amati, engineers ARUP, and building contractor LO.MA — our artists are now showing their work in a temperature- and humidity-controlled gallery, our Library periodicals are in a fully refurbished basement, and we are constantly driving down energy costs.

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Work on the east wing roof during the Sustainable Building Project (Photo: Natalie Arrowsmith)

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Christopher Smith inspects the building work (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

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The refurbished artists’ studios (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

To celebrate this, we were proud and honoured to receive a visit from our President, HRH Princess Alexandra, who launched the next phase of our Second Century Campaign. We are working to create a stable and sustainable basis for our future. We hope that as many of our members as possible will visit us next year and that all our existing friends, and many new ones, will help us continue the traditions of internationalism and excellence which have characterised the first century of the BSR and will serve us well in our second.

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HRH Princess Alexandra visiting the BSR to launch the Second Century Campaign (Photo: Thomas Toti)

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HRH Princess Alexandra with members of the Sustainable Building Project team and BSR staff and residents (Photo: Thomas Toti)

Christopher Smith (Director)

A week in the life of a BSR award-holder

Living in such a culturally and historically rich city as Rome means that a wealth of opportunities are on offer, and our award-holders and residents have been making the most of this! Numerous excursions, gallery tours and conferences are attended each week, and here we take a look at the ‘extra-curricular’ activities of a typical week at the BSR.

All of our residents were invited to the opening of the Japanese House exhibition at the MAXXI last Tuesday, which runs until late February 2017, after which it will move to the Barbican Centre and then on to the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. The exhibition featured a series of photographs and models exploring the development of postwar domestic architecture in Japan.

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Opening of the ‘Japanese House’ exhibition. Photo credit: Jana Schuster

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Opening of the ‘Japanese House’ exhibition. Photo credit: Jana Schuster

Back at the BSR: as part of the research for her AHRC Leadership Fellowship, Amy Russell, 2009-10 Ralegh Radford Rome Scholar and current BSR Research Fellow, gave a fantastic lecture on the imperial senate and the way in which it interacted with both the emperor and the city. Joining us from slightly further afield, yesterday evening’s guest speaker William Gudenrath (Corning Museum of Glass, New York) gave a talk on the history of glasswork and the glassblower from early Roman antiquity through to its ‘golden age’ in the Renaissance.

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Amy Russell on ‘The imperial senate and the city of Rome’. Photo credit: Arthur Westwell

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William Gudenrath discusses different glassblowing techniques. Photo credit: Stephen Kay

These lectures will soon be available to watch again on YouTube, and you can always find out more about our upcoming events on our website.

As always, both lectures were followed by a lively question-and-answer session, with the discussions continuing in the atrium for a rinfresco and cena speciale.

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Discussion and rinfresco following a talk. Photo credit: Antonio Palmieri

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BSR tiramisù ready for a cena speciale!

The great wealth of history and art in Rome means that our residents have the chance to demonstrate their expertise on a huge range of topics. Last Thursday, our current Henry Moore Foundation–BSR Fellow in Sculpture, Simon Barker, led a trip to Tarquinia to see the stunning Etruscan tombs. Simon enlightened the group with his extensive knowledge of the Etruscan period, and the artists gave their perspectives on the styles and techniques of the artefacts and tomb paintings.

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Detail of one of the painted Etruscan tombs at Tarquinia. Photo by Ellie Johnson.

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Wandering through the National Archaeological Museum of Tarquinia. Photo by Ellie Johnson.

Friday saw our award-holders take on stone carving for the first time. Led by sculptor Peter Barstow Rockwell, each person was given a slab of stone to work on and instructed on how to work the material. Everyone returned exhausted from the effort of the carving, but had a fantastic time in the process!

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Photo credit: Jana Schuster

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Photo credit: Jana Schuster

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Photo credit: Jana Schuster

On Sunday 13 November 2016, Jacopo Benci (Senior Research Fellow in Modern Studies and Contemporary Visual Culture) organised and participated in an informal roundtable on women and artistic practice at  Centro Studi DARPS (Donne Arte Pensiero Società), where the five women artists currently in residence at the BSR (Kelly Best, Maria de Lima, Maria Farrar, Catherine Parsonage and Vivien Zhang) discussed with Marica Croce Caldarulo (director of DARPS), Serena Alessi (literary critic and women’s studies scholar; BSR Rome Fellow, Oct 2016-June 2017), Lucrezia Cippitelli (art critic; lecturer in Aesthetics, Florence Academy of Fine Arts; lecturer in Art Theories, University of Addis Ababa); Costanza Mazzonis (contemporary art consultant, Sotheby’s Italy), and Marina Micangeli Sanfelice (entrepreneur).

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Enjoying some burrata at the DARPS event

One of the many perks of being a BSR resident is the access to sites that are usually closed to the public. Today marked a particularly special trip: Cary Fellow Robert Coates-Stephens led a visit to the Casa Bellezza, a series of fantastically preserved frescoed rooms from the late Republican era which sit underneath a 1930s structure which was the home of conductor Vincenzo Bellezza.

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Photo credit: Vivien Zhang

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Photo credit: Maria Farrar

Just another week at the BSR!

Ellie Johnson (Administrative Assistant (Communications and Events))

Meeting Architecture III: Fragments

The events of human life, whether public or private, are so intimately linked to architecture that most observers can reconstruct nations or individuals in all the truth of their habits from the remains of their monuments or from their domestic relics.’

Honoré de Balzac

Our current Architecture Programme Meeting Architecture III: FRAGMENTS considers how ideologies are shaped, memories evoked and emotions stirred by buildings, their contents and their ruins. 

We are now halfway through the programme having hosted the following lectures and exhibitions at the BSR in 2015-16:

  • Robert Bevan, ‘Culture and genocide’
  • Akram Zaatari, ‘The Archaeology of Rumour’
  • Francesco Bandarin, ‘The past as hostage. Heritage, conflicts and international organisations’
  • Dor Guez, ’40 Days’
  • Eyal Weizman, ‘Only the criminal can solve the crime’

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If you were not able to make it to any of these events, full video recordings are available of the lectures by Robert Bevan, Francesco Bandarin, Dor Guez and Eyal Weizman on our YouTube channel.


We very much look forward to seeing what the second half of this programme will bring!


Photos taken by Antonio Palmieri and  Giorgio Benni

Using the lost-wax method of bronze casting in the 21st century

As part of his preparations for our December Mostra, Giles Worsley Rome Fellow, Mark Andrew Kelly has been exploring how the ancient lost-wax method of bronze casting could be used to create modern sculptures and scaled architectural models.

Our Communications and Events Assistant, Katherine Paines, accompanied him and Marco Palmieri (Visual Art Residency and Programme Curator) to collect the finished sculpture and asked him what it was about this casting method that interested him so much.

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The final polished bronze sculpture made using the lost-wax technique. Photo by: Mark Andrew Kelly

The lost-wax method of bronze casting is so-called as it involves the creation of a primary sculpture in wax (or for larger sculptures, clay then coated in wax) which is encased in clay complete with small vents made from sticks of wax which form channels in and out of the refractory mold. This model is heated, causing the liquid wax to melt and escape through the vents as a gas, leaving an empty clay shell imprint into which the molten bronze can be poured. Once cooled the clay can be cracked open to reveal an exact bronze copy of the wax original, which can then be polished, chiseled and honed.

Hundreds of statues across the Greek and Roman world were made in this way, however, due to the skillful craftsmanship and the time required in the foundry, it is a method that has fallen somewhat out of fashion and is now not commonly done.

Mark is an artist and registered architect currently working towards an exhibition for the December Mostra at the British School at Rome. He is looking at concrete construction in Roman barrel vaults, cross-vaults and modern lightweight domes. The motivation to consider this type of bronze casting within his work comes from his interest in the formwork required to cast 3D metal models, which is very similar to casting in concrete.

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Mark Kelly (left) and Marco Palmieri (right) inspect the finished product. Photo by: Katherine Paines

Mark’s inspiration for trying out this method comes from his residency in Rome. He has travelled extensively around Italy during his time as an award-holder at the BSR, documenting the buildings and objects he has seen in an overflowing sketchbook and regularly publishing timelapse videos of his work on his personal architectural website. Mark passionately believes that when you come to a new place, particularly somewhere as steeped in a varied architectural history as Rome, you should try out the things that you are unable to do anywhere else. Where the craft and traditions are local, you are going to come out with the best results.

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Augusto, at Fondi Arte Bronzo, has been creating this type of work for over 28 years. He is seen here polishing the finished sculpture. Photo by: Katherine Paines

The cost of the raw materials and the antiquated methods used mean that it is not a commonly used method when creating sculpture. However, having whet his appetite for this here in Rome Mark is interested in potentially pursuing the lost-wax method further to produce architectural models as part of his regular practice in London. As he says, architectural models are often pricey things to produce even when they are made out of plastic and polymers, and as long as the quality produced justified the money spent it would be something he could look into – assuming of course he was able to find a workshop in England with the right equipment!

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Mark was inspired by the shape of Pier Luigi Nervi’s roof structure with three parabolic vaults. Drawings and photos by: Mark Andrew Kelly

The finished product, viewed alongside a reconstructed wax model of the same, will be unveiled as part of Mark Andrew Kelly’s collection at the December Mostra at the British School at Rome on Friday the 11 December 2015.

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Before and after: cast bronze metal on the left, hand-molded wax on the right (black). Photo by: Mark Andrew Kelly

Thanks must go out to Isabella Capolei, Marco Palmieri and the staff at the Fondi Arte Bronzo.

Katherine Paines (Communications and Events Assistant)

Mark Andrew Kelly’s blog, where you can find all of his timelapse videos of how he has been spending his time in Rome is available at: http://www.markkellyarchitect.com/blog/

The website of Fondi Arte Bronzo can be visited at:  http://www.fondiarte.it/index.html

Images by Mark Kelly and Katherine Paines

Climate change and sustainability: the UK and Expo Milano 2015


 
We were delighted to host the event ‘Climate change and sustainability: the UK and Expo Milano 2015‘ at the BSR on Thursday 15 October 2015. Our first speaker of the evening was Wolfgang Buttress, designer of the UK pavilion at Expo Milano 2015, whose design for the UK pavilion The Hive has recently been awarded ‘Best Pavilion Architecture’ at Expo Milano 2015.

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Wolfgang Buttress explains how the marriage of music and nature inspired his design for the UK pavilion ‘The Hive’ at Expo Milano 2015.

Our second speaker was Professor Lord Stern of Brentford, who gave a thought-provoking lecture on the ‘logic, urgency and promise of tackling climate change’. Following the event at the BSR, Lord Stern lectured in Florence on 16 October, and concluded his Italian tour by presiding over a roundtable discussion in Milan as part of the programme of events for this year’s Expo on the theme of Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.

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Wolfgang Buttress, designer of the award-winning UK pavilion at Expo Milano 2015, and Professor Lord Stern of Brentford, I.G. Patel Professor of Economics and Government, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE, and President of the British Academy.

If you don’t have time to watch the whole lecture (see the top of this blog post), you can watch a short interview with Lord Stern before his lecture at the BSR, and see the PowerPoint presentation of Lord Stern’s lecture. There are more photographs from the event on the British Embassy’s Flickr page.

Lord Stern will be lecturing in the UK on 24 November as part of the British Academy Debates on ‘Energy and the Environment’. Follow @britac_news and #BigDebates on Twitter.

Images by Guido Petruccioli