Architecture impacts everyone. We need to inspire greater visual and spatial literacy for all (2017)

Published by the Royal Academy at the time of the RA250 programme launch and a renewed commitment to architecture. 

Debate has long raged as to whether architecture is an art or a science. For me, it’s the inter-relationship of these two fields and the resulting tensions that make architecture so interesting.Art can change how we look at the world; it can inspire, surprise, alarm, delight, and our relationship with it can change with time and familiarity. These are all possibilities that architecture can offer too. But unlike most art forms, architecture must also operate on both a functional and practical level, with technical demands such as weatherproofing, structural stability, and regulatory controls coming into play. Quality architecture is about meeting these practical demands while creating spaces that are poetic and human. The experience of being in buildings that successfully negotiate the tension between practicality and delight is memorable and enlightening.Architecture is a socially-engaged art form and consequentially has an impact on us all in some way or another. It doesn’t exist for its own good but instead must address political, social, environmental and economic imperatives. It must also engage with the world of ideas, of culture and imagination. The conversation about architecture must therefore be wide reaching – one to which we all contribute. That’s why the Royal Academy, an independent artist and architect-led institution, is a fitting place to forge such a debate and provide a broad and inclusive platform that questions, provokes, inspires, innovates and educates on all aspects of architecture in our lives. From Brexit to the recent tragedy of Grenfell Tower, the past year has made it dramatically evident that the conditions in which we live – and to which architecture must respond – are continually evolving. By understanding the past, and critically interrogating existing situations, we are better able to propose solutions for the future. At the RA, we want to create a platform, and incubator, for fresh ideas about architecture; not just presenting current thinking but also developing new ideas.

Architectural projects – in this case a refurbished campus by David Chipperfield Architects that opens in 2018 – provide a moment to refocus ambitions. Architecture has been an integral part of the RA since its beginnings, and for nearly 25 years we have had a dedicated programme that focused on architecture. This programme has grown in response to an increasing public interest and a necessity for critical debate on the subject.

Our announcement about a reinvigorated commitment to architecture at the RA, supported by the Dorfman Foundation, shows that architecture, far from being on the professional periphery is vital to our lives and culture. An international awards programme, a new Architecture Studio, annual temporary exhibitions and a beautiful new lecture theatre to host debates, will enable us to reach larger audiences and harness different spaces and mediums for engagement while addressing critical issues, locally and globally. An architect’s knowledge and agency reaches far wider than just creating buildings and needs to be understood and harnessed.

The best architecture is created through a shared vision between client, community and architect that is garnered through listening, evaluation and leadership. Heightening the spatial and visual literacy of us all can only assist in this process. We want to enliven the public discussion and equip architects with a broad frame of reference that assures aspirational architecture is created for everyone. We hope you’ll be a part of it.

Read the original article at

“Sensing Spaces: A Creative Experiment” essay in “Sensing Architecture: Essays on the Nature of Architectural Experience”, Royal Academy of Arts (2017)

Sensing Spaces: A Creative Experiment, in peer-reviewed Sensing Architecture: Essays on the Nature of Architectural Experience, Royal Academy of Arts (2017)

Sensing Architecture sets out to provide a thoughtful commentary on our lived experience of inhabiting the world from several different and often surprising angles. The essays derive from a symposium of the same name held in March 2014 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, which accompanied the exhibition ‘Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined’, in which seven leading architects created unique installations that the public was invited to move through and explore. Four papers from the symposium are included in this collection in revised and expanded form. They are joined by an essay from curator Kate Goodwin reflecting in detail on
 the ideas that informed ‘Sensing Spaces’, introduced with a series of images of the exhibition taken by the architectural photographer Hélène Binet. This collection is conceived to complement the exhibition’s insights and to offer further consideration of the different registers of ideas – philosophical, psychological, social and economic – that shape our experience of architecture.

The Sayama projects demonstrate how far architecture can go to help us make sense of our place in the world’ – The Architectural Review (2016)

Inagawa Reien and Sayama Lakeside Cemetery in Japan, designed by Hiroshi Nakamura and commissioned by the Boenfukyukai Foundation, harness the force of nature.

A man sits at a table at the end of a long, curved space with flowers, a cup of tea and a box of tissues. He stares out of the window over a reflecting infinity pool to the Sayama Hills.  The configuration and atmosphere of the place offers privacy. Alone in his thoughts and memories, tears run down his cheeks.

I am here to visit two buildings – the community hall in which the man sits, and a chapel – both part of the Sayama Lakeside Cemetery. Witnessing this intimate moment was a humble reminder of the purpose of the place an hour’s train ride west of Tokyo, in a reservoir and recreation area known for its natural beauty.

Read the full article on The Architectural Review 


Thomas Heatherwick, ‘I wanted to be an inventor’ – The Architectural Review (2016)

This article provides a profile of the London-based designer and architect Thomas Heatherwick

“As projects grow in scale and complexity, Heatherwick Studio seeks to maintain its original design philosophy to create surprising objects, sensual details and pleasurable spaces….

Read the full article on The Architectural Review 

‘Ai Weiwei is a generator, an initiator and a director of architecture’ – The Architectural Review (2015)

The self-taught architect is better known for his art, but Ai Weiwei’s architectural studio has developed a restrained style that speaks to the fundamentals – form, structure, proportion and light

Read the full article on The Architectural Review

Photo © Getty