Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined at the Royal Academy
Half a dozen architects have been asked to set up pieces to explore the essence of architecture. One is not sure if piece is the right word in this context – model or installation might convey better what fills Burlington House.
A situationist would no doubt have a great deal to say about these pieces – particularly Pezo von Ellrichshausen’s pseudo skyscraper, which plays so wittily with scale – though with a theatrically democratic voyeurism that one does not quite believe. One notices how garish the collective feel is; only Kengo Kuma avoids the redeveloped public library style.
“The interventions”, says the RA, “actively encourage visitors to engage.” Note the zealous syntax. Viewers will get to poke, prod and smooth to their hearts’ content, and to the dilettante this will be satisfaction enough. The trouble with the show is that if architecture gains meaning through function, then these pieces can only be self-conscious to the point of both tautology and paradox. These pieces (installations? stage sets?) are meant to be functionless, and they are meant to show us how they work. This is a precarious situation made worse in that that the presumable permanence of most architecture (one doubts these Pritzker winners spend a great deal of time designing portaloos) is undermined by the fact that the whole lot – concrete slabs and all – will be gone by April.
The pieces are however enjoyable – so, if you are one of those meant to poke and scrut through these pedigree warrens, your time will not be wasted.
Photos: Monika Jorgesen
Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined is at the Royal Academy until 6th April 2014. For further information or to book visit the gallery’s website here.