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Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined

6th Feb 2014

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We've just been and can confirm that it's BRILLIANT!! Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined is in our view the most ambitious architectural exhibition by the Royal Academy yet, that sees its Main Galleries transformed by seven architectural practices from around the world.

The  RA has commissioned the architects to create site-specific installations; the shared brief is to explore the essential elements of architecture. Instead of representations of buildings in the form of models, plans or photographs, the RA is re-defining the traditional architectural exhibition to immerse visitors in a multi-sensory experience. Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined considers architecture from the angle of the human encounter: how vision, touch, sound and memory play a role in our perceptions of space, proportion, materials and light.

The architects include well-known and emerging practices and hail from diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds. Collaborating across the globe on this project are: Grafton Architects (Ireland); Diébédo Francis Kéré (Germany/Burkina Faso); Kengo Kuma (Japan); Li Xiaodong (China); Pezo von Ellrichshausen (Chile); Eduardo Souto de Moura and Álvaro Siza (Portugal). The architects have been carefully selected to form a group whose distinct approaches share similarities and offer contrasts. They all create work that is particularly responsive to people and place. They share an understanding of the sensorial capacity of architecture and its

The interventions within the Academy’s Grade II* listed galleries will engage visitors with structures, textures, sounds, spaces and even scents. A monumental structure by Pezo von Ellrichshausen, occupying the largest of the galleries, will challenge our sense of perspective; inspired by a Ko-Do, the Japanese smell ceremony, Kuma will highlight the importance of scent; Kéré’s tunnel will invite visitors to physically interact with the structure’s fabric; a labyrinth by Li Xiaodong will create a sense of containment and compression in contrast to Grafton’s exploration of light. Siza and Souto de Moura’s subtle installations will encourage visitors to consider the architectural history of the building.

A specially made film will provide visitors with the opportunity to ‘meet’ the architects. The footage will present a range of their previous building projects, transporting the viewer from a house on the rugged Chilean coast to a school in Burkina Faso, Africa. Filmed interviews with the architects will provide further insights about their work and inspirations.

Kate Goodwin, Drue Heinz Curator of Architecture at the RA said ‘Architecture is the ever-present background to our lives and we often don’t recognise the impact it has. We have challenged the architects to create an experience which excites the senses and sparks the imagination. We hope to transform the way you think about the spaces around you and how they make you feel’.


Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell of Grafton Architects said ‘Our interest is to engage the public: it’s about imagination and memory, because if you can touch those chords you create something very powerful.’

Álvaro Siza (b.1933, Matosinho, Portugal) has worked internationally but is best known for his buildings in Portugal including the Boa Nova Teahouse (1963), the SAAL Bouça Housing estate (1977) and the Church of Macro de Canaveses (1996). He received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1992, considered the highest distinction in architecture.

Eduardo Souto de Moura (b.1952, Porto, Portugal) worked for Álvaro Siza as a student before setting up his own practice upon graduation. Timeless buildings like the Paula Rêgo Museum, Cascais, Portugal (2009) and the Braga Stadium, Portugal (2004) have won great acclaim for the architect. He received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2011.

Diébédo Francis Kéré (b.1965, Gando, Burkina Faso) studied in Germany starting his Berlin based practice, Kéré Architecture, in 2005. He has built a number of schools and community buildings in Burkina Faso and across Western Africa receiving the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004 for his Primary School in Gando (1999).

Grafton Architects were founded in Dublin in 1978 by Shelley McNamara (b.1952, Ireland) and Yvonne Farrell (b.1951, Ireland). They have designed domestic homes, as well as major public buildings, becoming renowned for education buildings such as the University Luigi Bocconi in Milan, Italy (2008) and this year’s Stirling Prize nominated University of Limerick (2012).

Kengo Kuma (b.1954, Kanagawa, Japan) leads a large practice with a worldwide profile. Recent buildings include the Asakusa Tourist Information Centre (2012), Sake No Hana restaurant interior, St. James’s, London (2007) and the upcoming V&A Dundee (on-going).

Li Xiaodong (b.1963, China) is Professor of History and Theory at the Tsinghua University School of Architecture and also runs his own small atelier. His work includes the Bridge School, Xiashi, China (2009) which won an Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2010 and the Liyuan Library, China (2011).

Pezo von Ellrichshausen was founded in 2002 by Mauricio Pezo (b.1973) and Sofia von Ellrichshausen (b.1976) in Concepción, Chile. Their work lies at the crossroads between art and architecture with a portfolio that includes installations and houses in Chile, USA, Portugal and Spain. Their best known works are the Poli house in Coliumo, Chile (2005) and their home and studio the Cien house in Concepción, Chile (2011).

Organisation Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts. The exhibition has been curated by Kate Goodwin, Drue Heinz Curator of Architecture at the Royal Academy of Arts.


Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined runs from 25 January—6 April 2014 at the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J;

MmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmRoyal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J;