On September 29th 1948 the first two floors of Chesney Court buckled and the ten storey concrete structure collapsed leaving three dead and forty seven injured.
Ten years earlier the building was proclaimed as a breakthrough in design and construction, the collapse of the building shook the architectural world and the public at large.
Although the subsequent inquiry could find no obvious reason for the disaster, the press singled out the architect, Joseph Boshier, for blame. Joseph Boshier was a successful London architect with several impressive projects behind him – now his career was in ruins. After a nervous breakdown and estrangement from his wife and child Joseph became a virtual recluse. He disappeared from the architectural scene and was forgotten. On his death in 1982 his south London home revealed a staggering trove of intricate wooden sculptures and a mass of drawings and writings.
Subsisting for decades on a tiny income, he had produced a series of extraordinary sculptures, collaging new forms out of salvaged wood – often using his own floorboards and furniture and re-working them with an obsessive joinery. His largest piece echoes the L-shape structure of Chesney Court but also resembles a curiosity cabinet or old fashioned front room sideboard.
These works are not architectural models of Chesney Court but perhaps an exploration of the lives lived within and an expression of the guilt and loss felt by the architect. A fretwork of wooden pieces built up in layers allows glimpses of what lies within – artifacts and ephemera that Joseph may have held dear, although thus far the photographs have not been identified as any of those killed in the disaster. In a sense he lifted the roof off a block of flats and showed how people transform their homes and create meaning for themselves and their own history within it. Perhaps they speak to us of our own mortality.
From 8 November to 6 December 2013, Lesley Hilling presents a retrospective exhibition of Joseph Boshier’s work. Ivano Darra & Walter G. Reed’s new and definitive documentary film about his life and work, The Uncovering of Joseph Boshier, will be launched at this event and will be showing for the duration of the exhibition.
The exhibition “The Enigmatic World Of Joseph Boshier” will open on Friday 8th November until Friday 6th December 2013 at the StandPoint Gallery in Hoxton, London, and it will feature the new documentary “The Uncovering Of Joseph Boshier” produced by Ion Products.