Next stop: V&A.
We headed down into the sauna that once was Southwark tube station and headed off to South Ken to see what the V&A had to offer…and the answer was A LOT. Too much for us to get through!
As we walked in we spotted the beautiful courtyard filled with people lazing about on the grass and indulging in some (mmm…delicious) ice cream. We quickly joined in.
Not only does the V&A itself have brilliant architecture but at the moment they've got a free exhibition on called 1:1 Architects Make Small Spaces – seven little structures are dotted about the site and we managed to find four.
The first was out in the courtyard, the sunshine glinting off a gold roof supported by gnarled ash trunks. On closer inspection, the entire structure – floor, walls, roof – were all created from five ash trees, cut in half and carved into. Ratatosk is the title of this piece, meaning drill-tooth, and it refers to a story from ancient Norse mythology about a squirrel. Part of this story is inscribed into the split trunks on the inside of the structure. It's an exquisite piece of carpentry, the beauty of the natural textures and decay of the trunks is exposed and contrasts with the carefully carved calligraphy. After seeing this one we went off in search of the rest of the exhibition!
Next up we found Ark: A towering stack of bookcases standing two storeys high holding thousands of books. We followed a spiral staircase up through the bookshelves which face inwards, allowing visitors to grab a book and have a read on one of the sheepskin seats which give it a homely, comfortable feel. Even on this busy weekday in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the V&A Ark feels like a quiet spot where you can just sit, read and be peaceful.
Finally we found the main room for 1:1 and in this huge dark space we also discovered Woodshed and Spiral Booths. These didn't offer the same story as the previous pieces and we were left feeling a little confused and disappointed; however having read up on the pieces I now have a much better understanding! Not to self: must not read a book by its cover.
Woodshed is actually made entirely from wood produced by wood thinning in Wales, a necessary process which results in tonnes of cheap wood and therefore the means for cheap and eco-friendly rural studios.
Spiral Booths was completely lost on us: A tall glass and metal box, which like Ark held a spiral staircase, here leading off to red curtained spaces. We went through these thick velvet curtains and looked around for speakers or an object, we found a switch, had a "should we…shouldn't we?" moment and went for it.
A spotlight flicked on…
Nope. Nothing. Bemused we kept hunting for more hidey holes and found none. Turns out that Spiral Booths is intended as a purpose built space for performers so in practice visitors would draw back the curtains to all sorts of live art installations. Actually a brilliant idea and one I'd love to see in practice!
To all Architecture students: have a look at 1:1! I haven't seen it all and although I'm completely clueless when it comes to architecture I found it really interesting and I'm sure it'd be a great inspiration!