Root5 Senses Spaces @ Royal Academy

Imagine you had a large handful of brightly coloured straws to play with.  All those potential structures, shapes, figures you could make. Sound like an ideal sunday afternoon? This is just one of the experiences at Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined is Spring's blockbuster exhibition at the Royal Academy (thanks to Diébédo Francis Kéré).  

Inviting 7 architecture practices to inhabit those historic galleries, and in one case giving you the opportunity to get right up inside vaulted ceiling and mouldings of that very architecture (Pezo von Ellrichshausen), the website promises us to ask the questions 'how do spaces make us feel?' and 'what does architecture do for our lives?'. Geometry, space, architecture and who can resist an opportunity to assume an altogether alternative identity and live an afternoon-in-the-life of an RA member. Certainly not this Root5-er. So off I went, courtesy of the lovely AB, joyfully skipping past the queue right through the magnificent courtyard and into these temporary but all-absorbing worlds.

And my review? Go. Architecture is after-all about the experience of space: successful spaces affect the way that we move through and inhabit them. The materials evoke sensations of warm and cold, heavy and light; colour and light create illusions of more or less, of corners, curves, comfort and distress. Scents grab at memories and associations, a space lived in or abandoned and of materials natural and man-made. Proportion as written by one of our Root5 heroes Vitruvius has a direct relationship to our own bodies, and in turn our perception of these spaces.

What the exhibition does successfully is ask us to to notice what we so often walk-on-past. What does it feel like to be in a small smooth wooden enclave (we couldn't help but call it a den) and to walk out into a forest of rough walls clad with large twigs and paved with sharp rocks (Li Xiaodong). Wandering through the seven spaces, it is impossible not to become aware of the affect of moving through the enclosed to the open, shadowed to light, rough surfaces to soft and scented.  It's not a complicated exhibition, despite the literature. Go in with an open-mind and senses, and enjoy.  J 

Timeout's youtube meet and greet trumps any photos, take a look or if you're in a hurry, scroll to 3.25 for some grown women enjoying some coloured straws...they're Root5-ers they just don't know it yet!

Many more very lovely and inspiring videos on this exhibition on the Royal Academy of Arts youtube channel.  We're not plugging them. It's just good. And here.