Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy

The Courtyard at the
Royal Academy

Yesterday my friend (Little Sis) and I ventured out of deepest Somerset to the bright city lights in London. Two country bumpkins let loose on an unsuspecting city!

In February of this year I read a post on the Sew Stitch Knit blog by Irene Donovan about her visit to the Sensing Spaces exhibition at Royal Academy. [All of the photographs belong to Irene Donovan who has kindly allowed me to use them – thank you, Irene.] It immediately piqued my interest. I thought that it would probably also appeal to Little Sis so I emailed her to suggest a trip.

We were not disappointed.

Wooden columns


The first space we viewed was this wooden structure with four columns, each containing a circular staircase leading to a platform. The walls of the platform were too high to be able to see over properly but there were some strategically placed holes that one could look through. It was fascinating to be within touching distance of the gilded decorative 
coving in this room of the Academy.

Ramp leading down from platform


I found it disconcerting descending the ramp back to floor level as the walkway seemed to  ‘give’ as we walked along it.

The next room we went through contained an archway constructed out of high-performance reinforced concrete, moulded to the shape of the doorway by which it was situated.

Fragranced bamboo framework


Moving on we drew back a blackout curtain and entered a dark space which contained the bamboo framework shown above. There was another such structure in a second darkened room. Each frame was separately fragranced, one such fragrance being tatami. Neither Little Sis nor I noticed any particular aroma in either room.

Straws inserted in the next exhibit

We walked back through to the room containing the wooden columns and across to another exhibition space where we had earlier caught a glimpse of this gaily-coloured space.

Visitors adding their straws


The design concept for this structure came from an architect in Guinea Bissau who wanted visitors to contribute to it – a sort of community project, as happens in his homeland. Both Little Sis and I added our straws to this piece.

Visitors walk through the straw-enhanced tunnel



The Twig House


I found the next exhibit fascinating. The twigs used to make this structure have spaces between them and there is underfloor LED lighting. The acoustics are fascinating and that fascination builds as the sound of people walking on the stones in another section of the space echoes throughout.

The final spaces we walked through were a light space and a dark space. There were large  plaster blocks suspended in each of these rooms and, obviously, very different lighting. Little Sis and I differed when discussing these spaces – I felt that I could appreciate them, whereas Little Sis said she felt nothing.

Upon exiting the exhibition there is a short film where the architects talking about their work. Both Little Sis and I thought this should have been at the entrance to the show as we felt it would have enhanced our viewing and understanding of the spaces.

If you have a chance to go and see this exhibition it is well worth the trip. You have until April 6 to catch it!

**With many thanks to Irene Donovan for allowing me to use her photographs.

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