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architecture and the right to exhibition

Currently the Royal Academy in London plays host to a diverse group of architects in an attempt to draw attention to the influence that architecture has on our lives (and vice versa). The exhibition is called Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined, and runs until the sixth of April. Kate Goodwin, the curator, has put together this wonderful blog which outlines the creation and reception of the exhibition, and it is a great read. Has anybody here been to see the exhibition?

What first drew my attention to the exhibition was this article on the Guardian, in which the author argues that, because of the nature of the medium under discussion (fluid as it may be), there is a certain sort of deception to presenting such an exhibition. Architecture, he argues, is not a form of visual art, and yet we are presented with displays in the context of a gallery as if it were. I found this interesting: does the presentation of these works somehow devalue the experience which the exhibition is trying to stimulate? I feel like the gallery context serves in favor of the exhibition and not against it: like the mentality which one adopts when entering an exhibition space makes the viewer more susceptible to the ideas present, even though these ideas might be more appropriately exercised in an everyday setting. The point of it, from what I can gather, seems to be to stimulate thoughts for the viewer such that when they leave the gallery, the spaces which they find themselves in register in new and interesting ways. So, while the experience might not be 'full', it is what one takes away from the exhibition that is of more value. What does everyone else think?

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Comment by Sam Bradford (Admin) on March 3, 2014 at 7:47

It seems silly to complain that presenting architecture in a gallery is 'deceptive'.  Who exactly will be stupid enough to mistake it for the real thing?  Like viewing a high-quality reproduction of a painting, it can have aesthetic and educational value despite its limitations. 

Comment by Peter J. Matthews on March 1, 2014 at 14:31

The question of how to balance costs, function, and form is critical in some countries. In SE Asia, in regions often hit by typhoons, people spend rather huge amounts of money to replace aesthetically-pleasing thatch with unpainted iron that traps heat, quickly degrades, and becomes lethal in high wind.

An alternative might be some kind of modular wire-net system that costs less than iron, allows thatch to last longer, and is less likely to be picked up by high wind. People might learn to love the look if it actually works.

In any case, it sound like a good exhibition.

Comment by Grace Williams on March 1, 2014 at 11:32

this exhibition did not- it was structural pieces and rooms which emphasized different features for effect. this was my mistake, actually- he wants to say it isn't a form of visual art, because the experience of a building is fuller than visual ie. there are scents and textures available, and the structure of the building works to determine the ease of movement of your body (he mentions the height and slope of the stairs as example). i do not have a problem with this statement, but i am uncertain of his second justification- that architecture should not be considered as visual art because it is a thing of use. 

I recently saw a book which was a compilation of examples of poor architecture at the library in Auckland, but i did not get it out (why not, Grace?). I think it was poor both in terms of the uses the buildings functioned to serve, and in terms of aesthetic choices. 

Comment by Peter J. Matthews on February 28, 2014 at 22:09

For anyone to suggest that architecture is not a form of art seems outrageous to me! My own house was designed by an artist (specialising in sculpture and ceramics) who is a registered architect (specialising in earthbrick design). His work with 'plastic media' forms a continuous whole. This is not to say that all architecture is good art. A lot of it is ghastly. I wonder if the exhibition included examples of bad architecture?!

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