Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy

Hearing from an exhibition which focused on the terms of experience and atmosphere and mostly sensing, I had to buy a ticket to go the the Sensing Spaces exhibition at the Royal Academy as soon as possible, as the senses have been a particular interest in my practice since my dissertation and because I am about to start a self–directed project on the subject of the space and how we interact with it. So when I went there at the end of February, I went there with a lot of expectations. Going there on a Saturday was probably not the best idea in the world, as there were a lot of families around. On the other hand it also meant that there were a lot of different people present that each reacted differently to the architecture/artwork on display. Each room had their individual architecture so the different settings were very well separated and didn’t interfere too much with each other. But in terms of sensing the space, I found the impacts of the architectures not as striking as I had imagined. It didn’t take me a lot of time to go through the exhibition which is not how I normally visit shows, it normally takes me a very long time. But it was also very different from other exhibitions. Instead of offering loads of information and input to take up, the main aim of this exhibition seemed to be the experience of the space (which makes sense according to the name) maybe not necessarily in a conscious way as you would interpret a painting or photograph. Considering that the installations were made by actual, practicing architects working in real life and contributing to skyscapes and landscapes for real people, it is also understandable why they were filled with more subtle details rather than yelling information. There was space for a lot of breathing inside the rooms. The work that stuck with me the most were the twigs by Kengo Kuma which triggered different atmospheres and senses through smell as well as sight and you could feel the room. Another installation that had an impact on me was Li Xiaodong’s zen garden and labyrinth, even though I didn’t see it as such until after I watched the projected video as there were a lot of children running through the stones who created the opposite of a quiet space. It felt to me like Hansel and Gretel’s walk through the forest. I also enjoyed the light atmosphere installation by the Grafton architects as I treasure light very much and it reminded me of the importance of it in our life.
There was one room which was used to project documentation films. I found it to be the most useful to be able to understand the work, even though you have a station with a lot of Ipads int the first room where you can explore the architects and installations in detail. Overall I think that I went into the exhibition with a lot more expectations and probably influences for my project in the start position, so I didn’t have a good start for it. It was interesting to see on the side, but I also find it a shame that it isn’t something that can be put in a public space (even if only temporary) instead of people having to enter and enjoy as well as revive their senses and awareness, especially since the material used (in most cases) seemed to be quite resisting. But then again it could not have been at this time of year or it would have needed to be waterproof…

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