Modest models

In most architecture exhibitions, the material is over-mediated. Because of many layers of interpretation, such as drawings, models and photographs, audiences can feel detached and distant from the subject, and the building itself is often absent, says Abraham Thomas, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s curator of designs. Not so at the museum’s forthcoming exhibition 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces. Seven international architects – all building in the UK for the first time – were invited to present a final ’object’ as well as their design process and vision.

A quintessentially British interpretation of the traditional Japanese teahouse by Japanese Terunobu Fujimori will perch in the V&A’s Medieval & Renaissance galleries for visitors to access via a ladder, for example. Ark by Norway’s Rintala Eggertsson is a tower of shelves filled with about 6000 books that will occupy the museum’s National Art Library staircase, and Woodshed by Rural Studio from the US examines the idea of creative work spaces with a simple woodshed for the V&A’s Porter Gallery.

All the architects have a tendency to thrive on smaller, modest scales of building, says Thomas. In an age where popular media tend to present contemporary architecture through a narrow lens of grandiose schemes by star architects, the exhibition seeks to show that an alternative is possible, he adds – that there are many architects working on a more modest, bespoke scale.

Another motivation for the exhibition was the idea of returning archite

cture to the core principles of shelter, refuge and retreat. ’As humans we will always seek out modest, bespoke spaces for certain moments in our everyday lives,’ says Thomas. ’We all need a space which allows for reflection, contemplation and discussion.’

1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces is on at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 from 15 June to 30 August

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