Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined, Royal Academy of Arts, London

Numerous galleries at the Royal Academy of Arts have been transformed by seven architectural practices from around the world. Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined, is an exploration of the essential elements of the art form and the way in which humans interact with space on a daily basis. Running 25 January until 6 April in the Main Galleries, the exhibition seeks to re-define the traditional architectural showcase and turn it into an immersive and multi-sensory experience.

Those carefully selected for participation include well-known and emerging practices and come from diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds. The seven collaborating on this project are: Grafton Architects (Ireland); Diébédo Francis Kéré (Germany/Burkina Faso); Kengo Kuma (Japan); Li Xiaodong (China); Pezo von Ellrichshausen (Chile); Eduardo Souto de Moura and Álvaro Siza (Portugal). Between them there are distinct differences in their approach to work and yet they all produce pieces that are particularly responsive to people and place. Together, they communally understand the sensorial capacity of a construction and its materiality.

The new structures placed within the Academy’s Grade II* listed galleries engage audiences with new sights, sounds, textures and even scents. An impressive work by Pezo von Ellrichshausen, occupying the largest of the galleries, challenges the sense of perspective, while Kuma highlights the importance of scent in a piece inspired by a Ko-Do, the Japanese smell ceremony. Kéré’s tunnel invites visitors to physically interact with the structure’s fabric and a labyrinth by Li Xiaodong utilises light to create a sense of containment and compression. Siza and Souto de Moura’s subtle installations reflect on the Academy’s building and the architectural history of the space.

In addition to the installation, a specially produced film provides visitors with the opportunity to “meet” the architects. The unique footage explores a range of their previous building projects, carrying the audience from a house on the rugged Chilean coast to a school in Burkina Faso, Africa. Filmed interviews with the architects will provide further insights about their work and inspirations.

Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined, 25 January – 6 April, Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD.

In the February/March issue of Aesthetica we look at the exhibition in detail and interview curator, Kate Goodwin. The next issue will be out 1 February and available from

1. Installation (Blue Pavilion) by Pezo von Ellrichshausen. Photo © Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014. Photography: James Harris.