Saturday, 28 August 2010

Architects 1:1

'Woodshed' -  Rural Studio
Event: Architects Build Small Spaces

Venue: V&A Museum

When: Until the 30th August

Price: Free

Rating: ***

This exhibition prides itself on actually allowing visitors to interact and explore realised spaces instead of looking at technical drawings and models. There are seven buildings scattered around the V&A with two in the purpose built Porter Gallery.

Woodshed as can be seen in the photo, is as it's name describes - a wooden shed. The audience can walk through end to end. While I felt this structure was quite beautiful in it's utilitarian splendor, it had little resonance with me. It reminded me of Miroslaw Balka's 'How It Is', but didn't have nearly the same powerful impact on me.

Spiral Booths is a towering metal structure based around an internal staircase with intermittent curtained booths. This structure is confusing from the inside, it was like a house of mirrors (without the mirrors!) Entering the small booths you are either are faced with about 300 degrees of walls or a perspex window to the outside. I think where this piece comes into it's own is viewing it from the outside. You can watch people scurrying in and out of the booths, pressed against the windows, turning lights on and off. It becomes a performance, without the performers knowing.

'Ratatosk' - Helen & Hard Architects
Ratatosk is a beautiful wooden structure in the courtyard area. Six trees have been split and their branches woven together to make a kind of canopy. Stepping inside the tree on bags of bark reminded me of children's play areas, inside there are even grooves cut for you to climb in. Had it not been covered in children I would have been on it in a flash! The description even stated Ratatosk was 'reawakening our childhood memories of exploration and play'.

I must mention 'Cast Courts Room 35B' as it was the only piece that I had any strong opinion on. A large sqaure structure of beige plaster, completely blocked from the outside bar a tiny window. You were able to enter 6 at a time, without shoes. Walking down narrow corridors, the layout was confusing, walls that looked as though they should open we cast solid. Low celings then open roofs, extremely steep narrow staircases and a tree in the middle. It was a horrible space to be in, it felt so uncomfortable and so cold. I couldn't wait to leave. This wasn't a bad thing though, for architecture to have that power over a person is a credit to the architect. The piece was an exact cast of the house of a family of 8 in Mumbai.

'Beetle's House' - Terunobu Fujimori
I felt this exhibition was good, being able to explore spaces is always more interesting than looking at plans and models. I felt some pieces reacted to their environment better than others, many clashed with the space they had been placed in. I was surprised the number of pieces the revolved around staircases. I guess they have both symbolism and functional uses as well as being aesthetically quite interesting. Certainly they have been featured in many art forms whether it be M.C Escher's 'Ascending and Descending' or Grizabella's climb to kitty heaven in Cats.

It was great to see art that kids were clearly very excited about exploring. But it was unfortunate that a lot of the pieces had  a limit of 4-6 people inside at one time meaning a long time was spent queuing. I think the structures would have been effective with performances in them but I wasn't lucky enough to be there when any of these were taking place. Worth taking the look before it goes.

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