Last week I visited the RA’s well publicised exhibition, (you couldn’t go past a tube station and not see any form of promotional material) to see what all the fuss was about.
Being a supporter of architecture and it’s current and emerging trends, I expected to be encapsulated by glass, steel and geometric shapes but this was far from the truth. Upon walking up the grand marble staircase, there was a room ahead of me with a woman standing before the entrance waiting for my ticket.
This understated approach was a far cry from some of today’s ‘great architecture’ that was appearing around the London skyline. It’s this use of space and understatement with the contrast, between positive and negative space that bewildered my senses.
Each room had a feature piece but there were 2 rooms that stood out above the rest. The first, a wooden maze like structure. Constructed of wooden branches, cut to a uniform length then set in between horizontal elements. This idea of a manufactured forest enclosing in on you was a well considered part of its mysterious allure. One can only assume it was part of Li Xiaodong storytelling through the structure because as you reach the epicentre you are greeted by a complete contrast; a big open space filled with stones. I was impressed with the simple use of materials and natural resources that created this space, making me come to the realisation that aside from its aesthetic qualities, one of architectures most challenging tasks is to analyse space, how people move around it, interact with it and mould it to there own desires. This contribution to a space can change the entire meaning and focus.
I then came across another room and set within plain white walls was a white honeycomb plastic structure designed by Diébédo Francis Kéré. It enlarges at its ends into curved openings and creates a tunnel of colour and confusion but it didn’t start of like this. Kéré invites visitors to contribute to the structure and placed around it are pots of straws in multiple colours waiting to make the cut and become part of the action. Part of the honeycomb structure is it’s hole like nature. These holes are perfect for poking straws through, as it so happens and that’s what everyone did. What I can only imagine to have been a plain white shell was transformed into a rainbow of lines and pattern allowing you to walk through it and be enchanted. This playful use of space not only highlights how space is malleable even when having a solid shell at the heart but also how space can hugely impact on your experience and emotions.
This has reiterated the importance of space in design. There comes times where there is a need for a vast amount of positive space but there is a lot to say for something that is understated and simplistic. It’s all about balance.