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Seven architectural practices from around the world transform the Royal Academy of Arts
Irish architect Yvonne Farrell poses next to her installation at the Royal Academy of Arts in central London on January 21, 2014 during a photocall for the forthcoming 'Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined' exhibition which is due to run from January 25, to April 6, 2014. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT.
LONDON.- Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined will see the Main Galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts transformed by seven architectural practices from around the world. The RA has commissioned the architects to create site-specific installations; the shared brief is to explore the essential elements of architecture. Instead of representations of buildings in the form of models, plans or photographs, the RA is re-defining the traditional architectural exhibition to immerse visitors in a multi-sensory experience. Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined considers architecture from the angle of the human encounter: how vision, touch, sound and memory play a role in our perceptions of space, proportion, materials and light.

The architects include well-known and emerging practices and hail from diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds. Collaborating across the globe on this project are: Grafton Architects (Ireland); Diébédo Francis Kéré (Germany/Burkina Faso); Kengo Kuma (Japan); Li Xiaodong (China); Pezo von Ellrichshausen (Chile); Eduardo Souto de Moura and Álvaro Siza (Portugal). The architects have been carefully selected to form a group whose distinct approaches share similarities and offer contrasts. They all create work that is particularly responsive to people and place. They share an understanding of the sensorial capacity of architecture and its materiality.

The interventions within the Academy’s Grade II* listed galleries will engage visitors with structures, textures, sounds, spaces and even scents. A monumental structure by Pezo von Ellrichshausen, occupying the largest of the galleries, will challenge our sense of perspective; inspired by a Ko-Do, the Japanese smell ceremony, Kuma will highlight the importance of scent; Kéré’s tunnel will invite visitors to physically interact with the structure’s fabric; a labyrinth by Li Xiaodong will create a sense of containment and compression in contrast to Grafton’s exploration of light. Siza and Souto de Moura’s subtle installations will encourage visitors to consider the architectural history of the building.

A specially made film will provide visitors with the opportunity to ‘meet’ the architects. The footage will present a range of their previous building projects, transporting the viewer from a house on the rugged Chilean coast to a school in Burkina Faso, Africa. Filmed interviews with the architects will provide further insights about their work and inspirations.

Kate Goodwin, Drue Heinz Curator of Architecture at the RA said ‘Architecture is the ever-present background to our lives and we often don’t recognise the impact it has. We have challenged the architects to create an experience which excites the senses and sparks the imagination. We hope to transform the way you think about the spaces around you and how they make you feel’.

Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell of Grafton Architects said ‘Our interest is to engage the public: it’s about imagination and memory, because if you can touch those chords you create something very powerful.’

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January 22, 2014

Seven architectural practices from around the world transform the Royal Academy of Arts

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