Sensing Spaces

I said in my last post that I’d talk this time about the ‘Sensing Spaces’ exhibition that I went to see at the Royal Academy last week in London. This is a set of installations, the work of seven architects from Ireland, Burkina Faso, Japan, China, Chile and Portugal. Mostly these are massive pieces, each occupying whole rooms at the RA. The exhibition, as suggested by its title, is about space, its capture and delineation by architects. The exhibition curator, Kate Goodwin, describes the experience as follows: ‘Since birth, we have been making sense of our place in the world and architecture has been part of the process….. Our physical exploration of space is central to our understanding of architecture, first detected through the body and senses before being rationalised through the mind’. This exhibition is designed, I think, so that the viewer experiences it as a set of sensual stimuli, mostly to do with the visualisation and experience of space. It’s up to you how cerebral and theoretical you want to be about the exhibition, but its primary purpose is for the viewer not to rationalise or explain, but to experience. Whatever, the purpose, the experience is actually rather good fun, and the installations are surprisingly varied. My favourite piece was by the Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma. Here’s a photo:Kengo Kuma Sensing Spaces

(The photo comes from You duck behind a black curtain and go into a room that is lit only by the small lights at the base of the very fine bent pieces of bamboo. What did I especially like about this one?

  • The bamboo is so delicate. It’s on a large scale (as you can see by the people in the photo) and so resembles architecture, but the material used is insubstantial. No concrete here.
  • The three-dimensional nature of the space is emphasised as you walk around it. Even a small shift in view creates new shapes.
  • At first sight, I supposed that the lights at the base of the structure were arranged in a rectilinear grid pattern, but actually the arrangement is more interesting than that; it’s a series of curved lines of differing lengths, which adds complexity and interest to the structure.

Like a lot of people, I suppose, I find it difficult to think and to visualise in three dimensions; of the primary design elements (line, texture, colour etc) I find form the most challenging. This exhibition made me appreciate the talent of those who do have an understanding of form.

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