Although the Royal Academy’s annual Summer Exhibition is famous for the art on the walls, it’s also a space to show off rather larger works – of architecture. Or at least, the models of the architecture, on the assumption that skyscrapers can’t fit inside the gallery rooms.
Not just the latest buildings, but a host from the past decades, and as such, it’s a bit of a dream to see all these wildly different scale models on show with tiny figures frozen in time outside offices or inside homes.
One of the more fascinating concepts is a glass window that looks frankly like the sort of unrealistic giant doorway for an off-world building a science fiction movie would come up with. In fact, it’s a reimagined 9-meter Jacobean feature window for the Great Hall at Parnham Park in Dorset, and is by Heatherwick Studio. The idea is that the central pivot can open or close the glass panes as needed. I still think it would make for an amazing entrance to a modern art gallery.
Dominating the main room though is something very different from the rest of the display, a cheap-looking hut on wooden struts. It is indeed cheap, but cheaper than it looks. As the architecture here is just the metal corner joints, and the idea behind this project is to make it easy for people who have plenty of local raw materials to quickly build floodproof rooms using just the supplied metal joints at the corners to provide the strength and stability that otherwise would require a lot more material to create.
There’s a lot here about fresh ideas for sustainable construction, from novel materials to cladding for tall buildings that reduce the need for air conditioning inside. Elsewhere, space is given to cavernous buildings such as shopping centres and tall towers of the very modern style.
Most of the artworks on show in the Summer Exhibition are for sale, but here in the architecture show, they are for looking at not buying, which is a pity if you fancied owning the model of the Lloyds Building. But it’s a good two rooms full of models that people will rarely see outside the architect’s studio.
Tickets £20-22 (including donation). Concessions available.