Friday, 24 January 2014

Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined & Royal Academy

Last night I went to a preview of Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined at the Royal Academy. I have no idea why I was invited, but with my own house project underway I couldn't resist an exhibition about architecture.

Before we went into the exhibition curator, Kate Goodwin, gave us a short introductory talk. To paraphrase and add some of my own thoughts. Architecture is something you experience, rather than merely look at. Spaces change during different times of day and at different times of the year. We all know good architecture when we are in it. But how do we describe and replicate it? Quite daunting. Will the house I am designing be an enjoyable place to live?

The Royal Academy invited seven international architects to design pieces of architecture for the exhibition spaces and main courtyard. The resulting displays were all very different.

The first room I visited was the contribution by Chilean architects Pezo von Ellrichshausen, pictured above. They have gone for mass and presence. Each of the cylinders is a staircase which allows you to climb up to the giant platform above. The beauty of the design, for me, was how close up you could get to the ceiling of the Academy, not a perspective you usually get.

Next up I went into Japanese architect Kengo Kama's creation split across two rooms. His minimalism was in stark contract to Chile. Thin whisps of bamboo rise from the floor beautifully. One room smells of cedar and the other tatami. Graceful and peaceful it was my favourite installation.

On my way to Burkino Faso I saw the contribution from one of the Porugese architects. They'd created life size (i.e. enormous) replicas of the Academy's doorways and positioned them as if they'd been swung out of the wall. The architect I'm working with has been talking about pulling one space into another. I didn't think the installation worked which gives me things to think about!

Architect Diébédo Francis Kéré from Burkino Faso has created a honeycomb structure. Buckets of straws positioned round the edge of the room invite you to interact with the architecture. In a back corner of the structure I fashioned an 'E' from my straw and inserted it into the honeycomb. I'm keen to re-visit the exhibition and see if it is still there.

As I passed deeper into the exhibition halls I arrived at Chinese architect Li Xiaodong's creation. I was initially unimpressed by the maze created of larch (?). The larch felt clunky inside the wooden frame and in places not too well put together. The surprises and enjoyment of the space came in the small hidden rooms you discovered and the large mirrored rock garden. It ended up being my second favourite installation.

Last up was Grafton Architects, from Ireland, contributing a suspended structures in the roof of the Academy. It was a clever idea that should take advantage of the large roof lights and create a changing view throughout the day as the world outside changes. The only problem was we were visiting at night…..

In addition to all the installations there is a video featuring all of the architects talking about their creations which is well worth a look.

Overall it was an excellent evening. It gave me ideas of things to do in my own house and also a couple of things to avoid. It was a privilege to visit without the crowds too.

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