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The RA’s happy hotch-potch

An architecture show which should be a rich interactive experience

Olivia Weinberg | January/February 2014

"Go and explore, you’re not going to get lost." That’s the message from Kate Goodwin, the Drue Heinz curator of architecture at the Royal Academy in London, who has just allowed seven architectural practices from different countries to transform the RA's pristine galleries into a hotch-potch of cutting-edge design.

Architecture exhibitions can be tricky. Carting paintings and sculptures around the world is straightforward, paperwork aside: uprooting an 18th-century neo-classical building is not. "We end up having to communicate through representation," Goodwin says. "It can be alienating—and it requires a real leap of imagination." So the fiddly plans and 3D models have gone, and the architects have each created a site-specific installation.

The result should be a rich interactive experience: "not about telling people what to think," Goodwin argues, "but about generating a reaction." Diébédo Francis Kéré (from Burkina Faso, based in Berlin) has made a sweeping tunnel of honeycomb plastic that punches through two galleries. Li Xiaodong, from Tsinghua University, Beijing, conjures contemplative spaces (above). Kengo Kuma, from Japan, has something more delicate with wispy strands of bamboo that wiggle and wobble. It incorporates two traditional scents (hinoki wood and tutami) to shift our perceptions by engaging all the senses. Then there are Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen, whose slick designs straddle three continents—"Poli House" in Chile is the best-known. With 27,185 screws and 72,800 nails, their installation is the biggest of all.

"Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined" is unusual. It is less about the beauty and skill of each individual work and more about the collective experience, the sensation and the atmosphere. "In many ways," Goodwin says, "it is a subtle exhibition about sitting in a space and reflecting." ~ Olivia Weinberg

Sensing Spaces Royal Academy, London, to Apr 6th

EXHIBITIONS AT A GLANCE

Martin Creed (Hayward, London, Jan 29th to Apr 27th). Coloured prints from broccoli, a gallery of blue balloons: when you are Martin Creed, anything goes. This is his first big survey.

Cézanne (Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Feb 4th to May 18th). Cézanne’s still lifes have a quiet intimacy; his landscapes are full of colour and texture. See the best of both in a stunning show.

Richard Hamilton (Tate Modern, London, Feb 13th to May 26th). Hamilton at the ICA (ICA, London, Feb 12th to Apr 6th). Hamilton, who died in 2011 aged 89, helped shape pop art. The Tate maps his journey, start to finish; the ICA has two great pieces back in their original space after 60 years.

Miró: The Experience of Seeing (Seattle Art Museum, Feb 13th to May 25th). Miró’s paintings are so full of magic that his sculptures tend to come second. Here they are, both pulling equal weight.

Bailey's Stardust (National Portrait Gallery, London, Feb 6th to June 1st). Sexy photos—but all a bit samey?

Furies. Political Allegory and Artistic Defiance (Prado, Madrid, to May 4th). Titian, Michelangelo, Rubens and more. Unmythable. ~ OW

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