Spanning 500 years, the exhibition is anchored in three buildings from the 16th, 18th, and 20th centuries: Hardwick Hall, A la Ronde and the Hopkins House. Each present the profound role of women in their development and design, an influence that has persistently been left out of the history of architecture. These properties exemplify the way that power structures are rooted within the domestic plan, revealing the social relationships of their time.
Radical Rooms uses stories from architectural history and highlights moments when the plan has challenged the conventions of domestic life. With a layout inspired by the Palladian house plan, the exhibition forms an abstract grid of connected rooms defined by curtains and floor patterns. Animated and occupied by the four women, the architectural patrons of the three buildings, Bess of Hardwick, Jane and Mary Parminter and Patty Hopkins, these spaces share their stories through elaborate costume design and a music score that makes up an immersive audio-visual performance.
Where Charles Holland draws attention to the power in the plan through the organisation of space, Di Mainstone focuses on the people, bringing to life four key characters and revealing their history and influence on the construction of the three domestic properties. A shared language of pattern, decoration and colour link the two together. Throughout the gallery, original drawings and artefacts from the RIBA Collections are hidden for the visitors to discover stories that have been largely overlooked. These exhibits present an alternative history of architects who have contributed radical ideas to designing and commissioning buildings, and developing domestic life, all by means of the architectural plan.