Shows: 5 To Know

“As an architect, you design for the present, with an awareness of the past for a future which is essentially unknown.” – Norman Foster. This week, we’re sharing exhibitions from institutions including the Design Museum in London, Edinburgh’s National Galleries of Scotland and Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein. These surveys not only introduce the critical role of architecture and design in society but also propose solutions for pressing issues: carbon emissions, poverty and a lack of wellbeing in overcrowded cities.

Small Spaces in the City: Rethinking Inside the Box | Roca London Gallery, London | Until 16 March

Roca London Gallery is located in an award-winning building designed by the Iraqi-British architect and artist Zaha Hadid (1950-2016). The venue serves as an exhibition space, a cultural centre and a showroom for the Roca bathroom and tiles manufactory. Small Spaces in the City looks at the sizes of households that have been shrinking over the last few decades. In response, architects and designers are rethinking small spaces, developing innovative solutions that are flexible, healthy, modular, mobile and playful. Exhibition curator Clare Farrow says: “As high-density cities continue to expand, people look for imaginative and sustainable ways to live and remain in the heart of the action. (…)The future of compact living looks positive if it is approached with the right balance between privacy and community; the use of natural materials and multifunctional concepts; and an emphasis on health and wellbeing.” Besides design objects and interviews, the show presents photographs, urban plans and a newly commissioned film.

Iwan Baan: Moments in Architecture | Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein | Until 3 March

Iwan Baan (b. 1975) is one of today’s leading photographers of architecture and the built environment. His images document the growth of global megacities, explore traditional and informal housing structures and portray buildings by prominent contemporary architects including Rem Koolhaas, Herzog & de Meuron, Kazuyo Sejima and Tatiana Bilbao. Vitra Design Museum’s exhibition features examples from all areas of Baan’s work since the early 2000s. Moments in Architecture includes film footage as well as rarely published snapshots of traditional and informal design practices around the world – from self-built multi-storey dwellings in Cairo to the Torre David in Caracas. “What’s important is the story,” Iwan Baan says, “which is very intuitive and fluid. I am not so interested in the timeless architectural image as much as the specific moment in time, the place, and the people there – all the unexpected, unplanned moments in and around the space, how people interact with that space, and the stories that are unfolding there.”

Wide-Angle View | Architecture Gallery, London | Until 24 February

In 1969 the Architectural Review began the series “Manplan” to analyse the state of architecture and urban planning in Britain. Photography was central to communicating ideas and critiquing the impact of engineering on society. Many of the issues the series covered remain relevant today, including poverty, economic uncertainty, community participation, and the role architects can play in creating a fairer society. Wide Angle View features archival material, digitised copies and 76 snapshots taken by renowned professionals including Ian Berry (b. 1985), Patrick Ward (b. 1946) and Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972). RIBA Photographs Curator, Valeria Carullo said: “This exhibition brings us back to a time of challenges, disparities, disillusionment, but also a time of questioning, protesting, campaigning – in many ways, much like our here and now. It is a timely reminder of the importance of citizens’ participation in the decisions that affect their communities and the role architects can play in creating a fairer society.”

Making Space: Photographs of Architecture | National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, | Until 3 March

National Galleries of Scotland’s exhibition celebrates the evolution of photography and the role architecture plays in our everyday lives. Making Space introduces over 40 photographs from the 1840s to the present day that focus on urban planning. The exhibition invites visitors to peer through the camera lens and uncover a diverse range of visual styles, formats and processes. From early experimental works to spectacular contemporary photographs which capture the breathtaking scale of modern buildings, the show introduces the breadth and scope of our built environment. Standout pieces include Andreas Gursky’s (b. 1955) San Francisco, which is deliberately disorientating. Gursky uses digital manipulation to challenge perception, with humans often appearing insignificant and dominated by their surroundings. The exhibition also features three key loans from Tate, including work by renowned artists such as Bernd (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1931-2015) Candida Höfer (b. 1944) and Hiroshi Sugimoto (b. 1948).

How to Build a Low-Carbon Home | Design Museum, London | Until 10 March

The Design Museum’s exhibition showcases low-carbon approaches to housing and explores construction and architecture in the age of climate breakdown. It focuses on three ancient materials – stone, straw and wood. These substances have a potential to enable the UK to address the housing crisis whilst also meeting climate pledges. The display shows how resources are being championed through the work of a new generation of architects, who have been pioneering their use in innovative construction projects. Dr Ruth Lang, Low-Carbon Housing Research Lead, said: “How to Build a Low-Carbon Home demonstrates how designers and their collaborators are already rethinking resources, design processes, supply chains and architectural aesthetics. The three materials on display propose a more positive future that is already open to us. We hope to demystify these new methods of construction and the types of homes we will need to become more familiar with – and that visitors become advocates for this future.”

Words: Fruzsina Vida

Image credits:

1. Mark Havens.

2. Roca London Gallery. Photo &Copyright: Daniel Pecena.

3. Iwan Baan, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, Germany, 2017, Architecture: Herzog & de
Meuron © Iwan Baan

4. © Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections

5. Chris Leslie, Demolition of the Red Road Flats, image made 2013; printed 2019. © Chris Leslie. Purchased from the photographer 2019. Collection: National Galleries of Scotland

6. The Design Museum, London.