Architectural nerding

Posted: February 23, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I’m a huge architecture nerd. Buildings both modern and ancient really excite me. I’m working through a book, given as a Christmas present, of 1001 buildings to see before you die. I’ve seen 110 across Europe, China, Japan and America. Not too bad. Of course since 2007 when I was given the book new buildings have been created, so it’s a futile gesture really to try and see them all.

I also find architecture immensely inspiring for my writing. As I am focusing on science fiction these days, the city-scapes of these speculative futures form an important part of world building. The city itself often becomes a character. It exists as a means to show the theme of a film and to create mood or atmosphere.

And I’m a sucker for an ancient ruin that can be transformed into a spectacular set piece location for an action adventure movie. [That’s my youth watching Indiana Jones and playing Tomb Raider showing.]

So, whenever I can, I find time to see exhibitions involving architecture. The one currently on at the Royal Academy in London until 6th April is a thrilling, interactive experience I’d recommend to anyone with a spare hour and a few bob. It’s called Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined.

Seven architects have been given rooms to turn into their own architectural wonderlands. Some are gigantic structures like the towering wooden platform by Pezo von Ellrichshausen and the plastic tunnel by Diébédo Francis Kéré; while others develop more intimate spaces where the mind turns inwards like Kengo Kuma’s dark, scented rooms with delicate bamboo sculptures or the play of shadow and light by Irish Grafton Architects.

My favourite, pictured below, has to be the labyrinth forest of twigs by Li Xiandong.

Li Xiaodong exhibition piece at Royal AcademyPhotograph by Max Gee (on terrible phone camera)

The viewer walks on a luminous white floor, between walls of twigs in a darkened room, often turning to dead end seating spaces and eventually reaching a zen stone garden at the centre. Other people and spaces can be glimpsed through the twigs walls which are not solid. Caught on the peripheries of vision, these half seen sights create an atmosphere of mystery.

The quiet is broken when you reach the zen garden, where you are encouraged to walk across the pebbles. This brings back nostalgic experiences of holidays on pebbled beaches – a strange association in a dark, forest of twigs. Magical, I thought.

Li Xiaodong’s exhibition piece led to a google search of his other work; the library at Liyuan, struck a chord as inspiration for a location in a future movie.

Liyuan Library by Li Xiaodong

Photograph from Dezeen online magazine article

The strong lines of the main structure seem so current, modern, in clean light wood but they are tempered with the external shell of twigs found in the nearby landscape. The walls are solid, but not; the architect interested in the flow of light and air. It is the library to aspire to having – although I feel it might be completely impractical in Yorkshire.

I have a suspicion that flavours of the pieces in this exhibition will be making their way into the scripts that I will be writing for my PhD, apologies in advance Mr Li Xiaodong. 

Exhibition details:

Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined, The Royal Academy of Arts, 25th January until 06th April 2014,

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