This past weekend I visited The Royal Academy of Arts to see the Sensing Spaces exhibition. It was a collection of seven architectural structures. In each room was an individual construction that worked within the RA's body.
The first room contained Pezo von Ellrichshausen's structure (a collaboration between Sofia von Ellrichshausen and Mauricio Pezo). The build was large and visually powerful without being intrusive or overpowering. The untreated wood and height of the frame paired with the organic spherical legs and noble face gave it a treehouse effect that was warm and inviting. It was heavily contrasting with the RA itself and yet the light from the sun roof created a fusion, particularly when reaching the top platform. The minimalism of the structure made way for more interaction with the space it defined rather than demanding the attention for itself.
"Good architecture is somehow invisible, but it allows for whatever is happening in that space to be the very best experience possible."
Coming through to the next room there was a steel replica of the RA doorway arch. I love this material and the stark contrast between the old, warm, polished wood and the new, cold, distressed metal. The way it was situated looked as if it had popped out of the other like self-replicating cells and it makes the imagination automatically picture it in other materials, too.
"In a building like the Royal Academy, as soon as you arrive at the entrance you know where the exit will be and doors are just where you expect to find them. It's like a story or a movie that you understand from beginning to end."
Kengo Kuma's installation was reliant on the light fixtures in the floor. The curved bamboo structures were up-lit, giving it a sense of gentle movement and tranquility. At first glance the bamboo looked unorganised and tangled but as I moved around the room they began to line up like constellations to make beautiful, organic shapes and patterns.
"Photographs can only capture a fixed visual image, whereas for me the architecture is about the whole experience of the space. This can include touch or smell - anything that offers a special connection."
Diébédo Francis Kéré installed a white structure filled with holes and layer out long, colourful straws for the public to insert to build together their own structure. Although the aesthetics of this piece weren't to my taste (perhaps if instead of coloured plastic straws there were hay straws it may have appealed to my senses more), I liked the idea of giving the public the initial structure for them to collaborate to create something unique.
"We transformed the material that they knew, we took it fro the people and let them transform it, cut it differently and lay it differently. It was a surprise for them. People said 'okay, this is something we call architecture...' so maybe that is what I can bring."
Li Xiaodong's structure was a maze constructed from thick wooden branches. Although it was clean and linear, it had an organic feel that came from looking closer at the wood and seeing all of the bends, knots, and cracks. Once in the centre of the design I found myself walking on a bed of grey stones. The movement beneath the feet and the sounds of stones kissing each other reminded me of being on a beach. It was calm and peaceful even though surrounded by other people.
"The Chinese tend to focus on the intangible rather than the tangible - you see this in Chinese painting, in which the blank surface is often just as important as what is inscribed... allowing room for the visitor's imagination is essential."
The last two rooms were my favourite (reminding me of the buildings around Barbican). Both were concrete structures looming above the head. The first room was white and bright but with a heavy feeling because of the low hanging concrete blocks that seemed to balance just a few feet above my head. The second room was darker with transitioning lights blending from bright to dark slowly as if replicating a fast-forwarded day and night. The structures were simple and elegant though heavy and held a dominating presence.
We ended the visit with a trip to Busaba Eathai. I highly recommend this place; the food is great and the decor spot on (I especially love the ceiling fans, warm lighting, and rice forks).
Do you like this kind of post? What will you be doing this weekend?