In memory of Jules Wright (1948-2015)

A personal reflection from Vicky Richardson, editor of Blueprint 2004-2010, and Tim Abrahams's behind the scenes with Jules Wright on the Wapping Project 2009.

The death of Jules Wright is a huge loss. Jules founded the Wapping Project in the late 1990s and more recently was director of Wapping Bankside, a photography gallery. She was a generous friend and supporter of Blueprint, and for me personally she was a source of inspiration and strength. I vividly remember many of the exhibitions she curated and commissioned at the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station - she knew exactly how to use the space to create a powerful atmosphere with work that crossed the boundaries between architecture, design, art and performance. For Richard Wilson's Butterfly in 2003 a crushed Cessna plane was suspended in the Boiler Room and Wilson gradually unfolded it during the course of a residency in the gallery. In 2011 Jules flooded the space for an installation of Yohji Yamamoto's wedding dress that viewers had to reach by rowing boat. Jules knew and loved architecture and she was endlessly inventive in using the building. She worked closely with her husband Josh Wright an architect who was responsible for the brilliant minimal conversion of the power station into an art gallery and restaurant.

Jules was often ahead of everyone else in coming up with ideas. The best example I can think of is her anticipation with the interest in design process and 'making' - before anyone even used that word she invited the Blueprint editorial team to be a kind of living installation to give visitors an insight into what goes on behind the scenes. The show, for London Design Festival in September 2009, was called 'Design is Simply Complex' and it was a kind of coming together of her theatre background with her love of design and architecture. Alongside our team, the installation also involved Ally Capellino, Tracey Neuls and the furniture company van der Meersch & Weston. We all set up studio and workshop spaces on a lawn of astroturf, lit brilliantly as if we were on stage.

For the Blueprint team this was a great adventure and the perfect excuse for us to escape the watchful eye of publishers and management. We moved our desks and computers, borrowed some smart Vitsoe shelves and shifted production of our November issue to Wapping. For three exciting weeks we were the centre of attention, holding editorial meetings in the gaze of visitors, and working like goldfish in a glass bowl. The best part of it for me was becoming part of the staff of Wapping Project and working alongside Jules, her Deputy Marta Michalowska and the other 'performers' in the show. We were treated to staff meals and became part of the routine of the Wapping Project, with its succession of fascinating visitors and fans - all part of Jules's extensive influential network. Jules was brilliant at bringing people together - she had an instinct for who would get on, and enjoy each other's work. Most recently in October 2013 she introduced me to the work of land artist Julie Brook who had one of the last exhibitions at the Wapping Project. Jules rang me up out of the blue and said she was working with an artist whose work she said I would really like - she was absolutely right.

I will miss Jules terribly, but her death reminds me how important it is to stick to one's principles and to be brave, independent and generous - as she always was.

Vicky Richardson, Editor of Blueprint 2004-2010, now director, Architecture, Design, Fashion at the British Council

*Click images to enlarge


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