We headed to the Royal Academy to see the new Sensing Spaces exhibition.  In this exciting and interactive exhibition, the RA are encouraging us to see architecture as something otherwise than just something to be looked at.  The opportunity to climb up to the ceiling of the RA on this is certainly not to be missed.

Ask somebody what they think about architecture, and they will probably say something like, ‘Looking at buildings.’  The RA wants us to re-examine how we interact with buildings, and so how they make us feel. To do this, they are appealing to our different senses.
You arrive in the courtyard to some discarded pieces of sculpture, an abandoned Stonehenge if you like.  Sometimes the courtyard at the RA is impressive, it probably can’t be regarded quite like that this time.

The Blue Pavilion Installation by Chilean firm Pezo von Ellrichshausen at Sensing Spaces

And back into the room with what feels like a huge wooden climbing frame.  Marvel at this monumental structure for a while from beneath and let it challenge your sense of perspective. And then go up one of the four spiral staircases. In organised English form, two head upwards, and two allow you to descend, I had in mind following the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.  Then look at this glorious RA room from a most-unusual perspective.
If you’re a regular at the RA I bet you’ve never even noticed these angels before.  And now you can go eyeball-to-eyeball with them.  They’ve even cut sections out of the wooden climbing frame to help you see which suggests to me that the architect wanted you to look at the room as much as at his installation.

Kengo Kuma on the importance of scent in architecture at Sensing Spaces

I’d recommend that you arrive at the exhibition the moment it opens, and go into the first hallway; turn left into the room with the wooden climbing frame (my first picture), turn left at the end of this, and then go straight on into the dark rooms.  If you’re lucky you’ll get them to yourself.  They’re slightly chilly – or they were on Sunday – completely dark and touched with the scent of bamboo, the bamboo having been woven into geometric shapes.  It’s a weird experience, a little like going into a sauna that isn’t switched on, or a chilly bathroom with bamboo blinds.  But if you’ve followed my advice then you won’t be plagued with other people.
Head back past the concrete arch (made from reinforced concrete, showing what delicate items you can create with it).  Every other visitor has touched it, and felt how like metal it is.

A Tunnel by Diebedo Francis Kere at Sensing Spaces

And then go to the next  installation by German-born Kere and interact with it directly by using these long plastic drinking straws, which are provided in near-limitless quantity.When the exhibition opened, this was a white skeleton, waiting for the arrival of the first visitors.  Now the overall effect is of a sweetshop of pastel colour.  Insert your drinking straws as you wish. It was definitely the most popular place for the children of all ages at the exhibition, allowing them to interact with the installation, and to design their environment themselves.  Artwork you’re allowed to graffiti, what fun!


The final two rooms were about light, but they didn’t really work for me as they were just two big barns of rooms.  It was a shame to end the exhibition on a weak note, as the rest of it was a real eye-opener.  Go, before it ends, here are the visiting times.

I really recommend getting a copy of the book Sensing Spaces and reading it before going as it will help you to understand what the architects are aiming for.  There aren’t any guide books in the rooms, and you will miss out on the nuances without it.