This month we share a guest feature from Dr Derham Groves, Senior Lecturer in Architecture here at the University of Melbourne.
The whittled head, hair and torso of Percy Grainger, by Masters of Architecture student, Li Cheng Gao
In semester two 2018, each of the 200-plus Master of Architecture students doing my Popular Architecture and Design course at the University of Melbourne (Australia) were each asked to whittle the head of a ‘pop culture icon’—i.e. an actor, an architect, an artist, a fictional character, a politician, a TV personality, a writer, etc. who I discussed or at least mentioned during my lectures—from a block of wood using only a pocket knife.
For the past few years, the Popular Architecture and Design students have visited the Grainger Museum as part of a wider discussion about cabinets of curiosities. Hence the museum’s founder, Percy Grainger (1882 – 1961), was one of the pop culture icons. I thought the friends of the Grainger might like to see him (along with a sampling of other musicians). Furthermore, what inspired this exercise—one of five the Popular Architecture and Design students completed this semester—was the cover of The Beatles’ 1967 LP Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, designed by Peter Blake (b. 1932) and Jan Haworth (b. 1942).
Other student's whittled works, on display in the Architecture, Building & Planning Library
None of the students had tried whittling before. So I was pleasantly surprised by how good many of their heads were. But all of them—the good, the bad and the ugly—are currently on display in the Architecture, Building & Planning Library at the University of Melbourne.