In architecture, narrative prioritises human experiences and the need to shape them into stories. It places the emphasis on a building’s meaning rather than performance.
To architects, the enduring attraction of narrative is that it offers a way of engaging with the way a city feels and works. Rather than reducing architecture to a mere style or an overt emphasis on technology, it foregrounds how buildings are experienced. Since the early 1980s, many architects have used the term ‘narrative’ to describe their work. Nigel Coates was at the forefront of this movement as one of the founders of NATO (Narrative Architecture Today) at the Architectural Association in London.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, he spearheaded narrative practice in the commercial world with designs for fashion retail, bars and nightclubs in London, Tokyo and Istanbul. Retailers, restaurant owners and event organisers, keen to talk to their customers in new ways, soon followed suit, adopting a narrative approach. In this book, Coates explores the potential for narrative as a way of interpreting buildings from ancient history through to the present. It features architects as diverse as William Kent, Antoni Gaudí, Eero Saarinen, Ettore Sottsass, Superstudio, Rem Koolhaas and FAT. It provides an overview of the work of NATO and Coates, as well as chapters on other contemporary designers. In so doing it signposts narrative’s significance as a design approach that can aid architecture to remain relevant in this complex, multidisciplinary and multi–everything age.
About the Author:
Nigel Coates is an architect, designer and educator. Along with eight of his ex–students, he founded the NATO group in 1983. With Doug Branson he began Branson Coates Architecture in 1985, and together they built extensively in Japan and the UK. He is a prolific product and furniture designer, and has designed for Hitch Mylius, Alessi, Fornasetti and Slamp. His drawings and furniture are in the collection of the V&A. He is the author of several books including Guide to Ecstacity (2003). For over 15 years, Coates was Professor of Architectural Design at the Royal College of Art, London.