|Set in to groups for an architectural workshop, and instructed to work like an architectural practice, the children identified that that meant collaborating as a team to achieve a common goal - and they did just that!|
With naive clear-sightedness and enquiring minds, their observations walking round the exhibition hit on a lot of points which I had missed. In the Kengo Kuma rooms, they saw that in one room they surrounded the installation and in the other they were surrounded by it, highlighting the difference between a sculptural installation and a spatial one, or positive and negative space.
|Kengo Kuma's installation|
They understood the significance of the doorway as a transition between one space and another, and the value of materials in terms of how they make us feel and the influence construction methods can have on our appraisal of an object.
|The Eduardo Souto de Moura doorways|
The Pezo von Ellrichshausen pavilion was a favourite with lots of the children, partly because it drew on their energy and sense of adventure. Ascending the tight spiral stairs and returning back down the ramp was fun (no matter how many times they did it), and being elevated in to the ceiling space registered with their sense of adventure. They felt the difference in the quality of light at this height and acknowledged that the materials, perimeter balustrade and (ordinary square) geometries of the platform was guiding their views upwards to see the detail in the gallery's ceiling space.
|Excitement of discovering a different environment|
|Understanding the relationship between object and the gallery space. It was difficult to believe that the pavilion sits in exactly half of the gallery|
The Diebedo Francis Kere installation was another favourite because it immediately engaged with the childrens' sense of playfulness. The space narrows in the centre of the installation making a more intimate space, compared to the more open and public ends. Filled with plastic straws, it presented itself as a cave where they could plug in their own piece of creativity.
|Creative adventure ground|
|Intricate work to make a contribution to the exhibit|
The Li Xiaodong installation was another very active space. The children loved chasing through the maze and then feel the crunch of footsteps on the stones at the other end. The hard light from below combined with the soft light from the side through the vertical timbers, conspired to keep everyone's focus down (the opposite of the Pezo von Ellrichshausen pavilion). Nobody realised that the installation crosses two gallery rooms, which could only be seen by looking up and reading the ceiling space.
|Lots of activity, crunching and excited chat|
Although the Grafton Architects installation was possibly my favourite, this was not shared by many others. Although the spaces are heroic, they do not require heroics in them. Immediately entering the rooms from the tumbling Li Xiaodong maze, everyone's voice levels dropped to almost a whisper as if we were in a cathedral or a library. They were definitely spaces to sit in and discuss - more contemplative than the others.
|Sensing the space in the Grafton Architects rooms|
Backstage, after seeing the exhibition, the children discussed their experiences with Harry, the group leader before beginning work in teams to crate installations of their own. They were asked to think about light, materials, texture, scale, positive and negative space, structure and shape. Many different types of materials were available to work and play with. The children were encouraged to discuss a design, make some simple sketches then follow up with their physical creations. They were also encouraged to let go of preconceptions of how the standard built world works (ie doors, windows, walls, ceilings, floors etc). At the end of the process there was a crit to review the work. (Strangely I was the only one who felt nervous at this).
|Discussion of the exhibition and workshop briefing|
|Getting down to work. Five teams each producing very different installations with different selections of materials|
|Many of the influences within the exhibition had stuck a chord with the children|
|Playing with space, structure and texture|
|Cool structures and spaces|
|Playing with structures, lights and colour effects|
|Playing with transparency, translucency, structure and screens|
|Crits with Harry - an excellent tutor|
Time-lapse video of the experience
It was a very enlightening day. The more we learn and practice our trade as architects the more we are in danger of establishing working conventions and loosing touch with the naive clear-sightedness and enquiring minds which we had as children. It is something which is very special and which we should work to hold on to.
|The Royal Academy - where Art Rules!|