James Craven: Pearls interview
In lights of Jim’s new video Pearls, and Henry’s photo exhibition documenting this project that explores the European works of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, we asked them to sit down and chat about it all.
Pearls interview by Henry Kingsford
Q: I remember you telling me about this project years ago. How long have you been planning it?
A: It’s been a recurring idea that I have been talking about and researching since my girlfriend Pip showed me a book about his work, which was about 7 years ago. She was studying architecture at the time and kept showing me pages and saying “this looks like a good spot!”, and I would recognize so many of them from skate videos. I loved the idea of trying to tie all of these spots together in a project, but had no idea how to make it happen really.
Q: How did it finally come to be made?
A: Carhartt WIP came through! I hit them up last year after the ‘Hringur’ project with a proposal, explaining what I was hoping to do and all the places we wanted to go. I knew it was a pretty stupid sounding project but they were on board right away! So, it’s mostly thanks to Joseph and Etienne at Carhartt WIP that this finally got to happen. I hope they are happy with the result. Cheers guys!
Q: For those who don’t know, tell us a little about Santiago Calatrava.
A: He’s a Spanish architect, engineer, sculptor and artist who is famous for designing some really wacky buildings and bridges all over the world.
Q: What are his main inspirations / references?
A: I’m certainly no expert but it seems that a lot of his work is inspired by anatomy. Some of his buildings are based on fish skeletons and other sea life. Part of his work in Valencia is designed to look like a human eye from a certain angle, with the bottom half of the eye reflected in water.
Q: Are you a fan of his work?
A: It’s definitely interesting! It isn’t very practical, but it’s real spectacle architecture, especially in real life. I think my main issue with his work is that his buildings aren’t very sympathetic to their surroundings, and they are often really similar. It’s as if any one of his works could be put anywhere, I don’t think he’s doing too much thinking about how to make something relevant or suitable for the place it actually ends up. All of that said, I think the fact all of his work follows such common themes and looks so similar is exactly why it works to make a film like this, so I shouldn’t really complain.
Q: What makes his buildings so skateable?
A: The main reason is that there are almost never any vertical lines in his designs. Pretty much everything is a bank or a transition, and it is usually that way all the way to the ground, which means you can actually skate the forms of the buildings.
That’s definitely not a common trait in architecture!
Q: The filming trips were quite different to most skate trips. Can you explain?
A: Haha! Well, most of these spots are in a city or country where there is only one Calatrava spot. So we have been heading to all of these places that are amazing to skate, Barceona, Seville, Berlin etc – only to skate one spot! They are usually quite shit, too. Thankfully all of the guys on the trips have been really understanding and up for it, it’s quite a big ask.
Q: Tell us about the film itself. What were you main goals?
A: I guess just to draw the link between architecture and skateboarding. They are two things that are really deeply linked, but obviously it isn’t always considered. Calatrava is quite an extreme example because his work is so outlandish, but pretty much every street spot in existence was designed by somebody, and they probably have no idea that the thing they drew in an office once could become renowned worldwide for something completely different to its intended use.
Q: How does it sit alongside Land, Island, Hringur and Lanka? Could it be considered part of a series?
A: I wouldn’t say so. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I definitely see this as the start of something new.