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Two huge canvasses installed within the vacant frames either side of the main Stair Hall at the Royal Academy usually occupied by two paintings of mythological scenes by Sebastiano Ricci, accompanied by two sculptural objects inserted in the niches at either side of the top of the stair.

 

The twin interventions speculate on opposing concepts of space. Visitors experience the canvasses whilst moving up and down the stairs and the images explicitly relate to this act of transition through space. Orientation and point of view are made deliberately ambiguous, with distortions in perspective and the way the fluted columns and I-beams appear abruptly from the top of the frame.

 

Further up the stairs, the column and I-beam appear as real objects in the two opposing niches. Usually these niches contain bronze statues of the painters Thomas Gainsborough and JMW Turner.  Here, they serve to bring into focus the classical column and modernist I-beam as symbols of two distinct architectural philosophies, with opposing ways of thinking about space.

 

In contrast to the unbounded spaces of the wall images, the sculptural objects exist within the physical confines of the niches. Yet the spatial ambiguities continue: the column and the I-beam are sliced off at 45 degrees to suggest multiple viewpoints and are also placed on mirror bases that extend into imagined and representational spaces beyond. Together these interventions illlustrate the perceptual complexities that shape how we understand the space we occupy.

 

As a conscious break with architectural tradition and the past, modernism had its own set of 'origin myths'. In his seminal Space, Time and Architecture (1941), Sigfried Gideon suggested that the origins of modernist architecture lay in its concept of continuous, free-flowing space that derived from the fragmented forms and spatial complexities of Cubist art.  Nearly four decades later, Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter in their influential book Collage City (1978) contrasted Gideon's view with the idea that the historic city was formed through a series of bounded spaces or external 'rooms'.

 

 

[From Origins: A Project by Ordinary Architecture]

IMG_8909 IMG_8908 IMG_8836 Ordinary Architecture x RA 9031 Ordinary Architecture x RA 9030 Ordinary Architecture x RA 9020 Ordinary Architecture x RA 8951

On Space

Royal Academy of Arts