22 November 2011

Art Deco and more at RIBA

RIBA is a place that I go to far too infrequently given that I love architecture and exhibitions about architecture.

I visit the small architecture display at the V&A regularly but I believe that this was only my third visit to RIBA. And one of those was for a Knowledge Management event.

The excuse this time was an exhibition on Art Deco and the enabler was a day off work.

RIBA has a relaxed friendly atmosphere and it feels a little odd to walk in to the building unchallenged by any of the uniformed staff on the front desk.

From there a wide staircases leads you up to the first floor where you'll find the cafe and dining room. The later was reserved for a graduation event which explained the large number of young people in gowns surrounded by their smarty dressed and proud parents.

A narrow elegant staircase takes you up to the second floor where the Art Deco exhibition began.

The gallery is a horse-shoe shape wrapped around the atrium and the outer walls were thick with black and white photographs of gorgeous Art Deco buildings, rooms and features.

Helpful notes explain when and where the photos were taken and often lead to thought along the line of "I must go there one day".

Of course a lot of the nice stuff has gone but the photos are there to remind us of what we've let go and what we have managed to keep.

The exhibition continued in the library on the floor above. The sign outside said that photo-id was required but smiling nicely, and not looking like a thief, vandal or terrorist, I was waived in.

Down the middle of the room old postcards and extracts from old books and magazines were presented under protective glass. That and the stern warnings and the CCTV cameras dissuaded me from taking any photos. You'll just have to trust me that it was worth the climb to see the pictures.

Heading back down and out I paused at Gallery 1 on the first floor.

This is across the front of the building and has large windows on to Regent Street.

There I found a simple exhibition on the RIBA Manser Medal 2011, a competition to find the best new house in the UK.

The large displays gave a great deal of information about the houses, their sites and the ideas behind their construction.

The gallery looks almost empty but there was a surprising among to see and read.

The houses were all very different, due to the uniqueness of each site, yet each had managed to take a sympathetic approach to their surroundings.

There were some models too.

This house is clearly barmy but if you want a floor with a window then this is the sort of thing that you have to go for.

Another house was similarly cantilevered which enabled it to get close to a river.

Normally when I look at pictures of houses there is a price tag on them somewhere and I would have loved to know how much some of these are worth just to see how far out of my price range they are.

RIBA manages to pack a lot of interesting things in to small exhibition spaces and is a wonderful place to wallow for an hour or two.

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