Sensing Spaces

How does the room you’re sitting in make you feel? What is it about the soaring roof of a railway station, the damp odour of a cellar, the feel of worn stone steps beneath your feet, the muffled echo of a cloister or the cosy familiarity of your lounge that elicits glee, misery, fear or contentment?

In January, the Royal Academy will be opening a groundbreaking exhibition, which will see the entire RA Main Galleries transformed by installations created by seven architectural practices from around the world.

The architects have been tasked with reawakening an audience’s sensibilities to the spaces around them – bringing to the fore the experiential qualities of architecture.

Commissioning entirely new works from some of the most inspiring architects from across the globe has been a fascinating experience. With this blog, I want to share the process with you.

Unlike a traditional architectural exhibition, there will not be any plans, models or drawings.

Instead, our architects have worked with an open brief that has encouraged probing discussions, open thinking and experimentation to create an architectural intervention in our Victorian galleries.


It’s hard to convey the scale of this endeavour, but to give you an idea: the exhibition will occupy 13 galleries and the RA courtyard, a total of over 25,000 square feet. We’ll essentially be running eight building sites simultaneously for three weeks, with local builders working alongside specialist craftsman coming from as far away as Chile and Japan.

Through this blog we will share some of the thoughts, challenges and stories that are behind the development and creation of this exhibition. We will introduce you to the architects, giving you a window into their thinking and hints of what they are working on for the show.

We’ll give you behind-the-scenes glimpses into the creative process, as well as the practical challenges of putting together a show like this.

But we don’t want to reveal too much. The greatest pleasure will be discovering these transformed spaces for yourself, when the exhibition opens on 25 January.

Kate Goodwin
Drue Heinz Curator of Architecture