These ceiling illustrations were originally installed inside the Royal Academy's Entrance Hall as part of the Origins exhibition in 2016 and they are set to remain until the RA250 refurbishment programme is complete.
The images in the central section of the ceiling explore the meaning and contemporary relevance of the 'primitive hut' - one of the most persistent myths in the history of architecture that holds that he classical language of architecture derives from rudimentary timber constructions of tree trunks and branches. Although it appears in architectural treatises from the Ancient Roman architect, Vitruvius, onwards, today the 'primitive hut' is most closely associated with Marc-Antoine Laugier appearing on the frontispiece of his influential Essay on Architecture (1753), serving as validation for the supremacy of Ancient Greek architecture over all others.
The five central panels are usually home to paintings by Benjamin West depicting 'The Graces Unveiling Nature' and the 'Four Elements', which also provide another point of departure. In the central roundel, a contemporary 'primitive hut' is depicted in the form of a DIY garden shed depicted exploded from below. Around it the four segments each represent an element integral to the construction of architecture, corresponding to West's absent imagery, circling in celestial orbit around the shed.: Ventilation (Air), Plumbing (Water), Groundworks (Earth) and (Heating (Fire).
The four oval panels at the ends of the room are usually home to paintings by Angelica Kaufmann depicting the 'Elements of Art'. Here, they contain a contemporary updating and abstraction of the 'Elements of Architecture'. The three virtues outlined by Vitruvius of firmitas, utilitas and venustas (firmness, commodity and delight) are supplemented by a fourth: sustainability. Thus, as a whole, the new imagery illustrates the intersections between apparently universal architectural values and the sometimes banal realities of contemporary building materials, practices and qualitative judgements.