sensing spaces

Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy

Sensing Spaces: Architecture Re-imagined at the Royal Academy been open a few weeks now and I've been chomping at the bit to get there. Finally an exhibition based around Spaces and architectural practice with a focus upon the human senses and experience. This is a subject that has been a passion if not a slight obsession for a long while now. I felt this was a real departure from other architecture shows giving the viewer the opportunity to fully engage with these structures with a clear insight into elements of the design process and thinking. In much the same way as 1:1 at the Victoria and Albert Museum architecture for small spaces did in 2010  

Pezo von Ellrichshausen

This modestly built wooden construction leads you up into the heavens of the Royal Academy via a spiral stairway built into the cylindrical supporting structures. 
Or you are able to go up or down through a ramp walkway to the side. As the walls at the top are quite high there are small viewing holes enabling you to look out beyond the gallery space.

Kengo Kuma
Two darkened rooms are allocated to house Kengo Kuma's bamboo installations. These fragile looking structures subtly lit from the floor creates an immersive space on initially encountering can make you feel a little off balance. 
There is a strong scent of Japanese Cyprus and Tatami which heightens the reaction when encountering the space. Scent is often linked to a particular memory 
Personally I was impressed by the way a spatial piece of work had been created and constructed using such fine materials hi-lighting weightlessness yet it still had a real presence as an architectural form. 

Li Xiaodong
This Maze like structure leads you in the this darkened encased environment. You have several different routes to choose from as you head further into the space. On your journey there are several resting spots for you to be able to sit or simply observe passers by.
Eventually you reach the central point and find yourself in the middle of a zen garden. The space appears to be much larger than it is initially as one of the walls houses mirrored glass creating the illusion of expansive space.

Grafton Architects 
The last two rooms had to be my favorite as you enter these spaces I immediately thought of Rothko's Chapel in Texas or Alvar Aalto Church of the Three Crosses 1955-1958.
 These spaces had an overwhelming feeling of weight, concrete, and density that hung in the air above you. When you entered the space it wasn't apparent how intense these pieces were particularly the darkened room as the lighting changed slowly over time creating it's own environment drawing you in to explore the space from every possible angle. 

The film that you were invited to watch before leaving the exhibition was a fascinating insight in to each architects practice having been selected and invited to participate and design work specifically for the Royal Academy's space.

 I also felt this exhibition was really approachable and inclusive, It had been curated in a thoughtful manner each piece of work had plenty of space to exist in. As the title of the exhibition explains it taps into the human emotion, the memory, the subconscious it's a show that everyone can enjoy and take something away. It's certainly not a show exclusively for architects and creative practitioners. It is however, an excellent opportunity to introduce children to large work spatial work as they can really experience and interact with each piece in different ways, which is often rare within a art gallery, Having said that it's also for anyone who is simply interested in exploring, experiencing or feeding an inquiring mind.

Sensing Spaces also brings very complicated ideas around the subject of Phenomenology to the forefront. Whether you are familiar with the ideas or not. 
We interact with building structures and spaces on a daily basis. They all have an impact on the way we feel and the way we move through them or use them and we sometimes don't even realise.
 This exhibition really hi-lighted this important element within architecture and may make some of us more aware of our surroundings in the future.