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RIBA unveils spring exhibition: Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media

26 February 2020

A new installation by Space Popular commissioned by RIBA

Architecture Gallery, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD

26 February – 16 May 2020, FREE ENTRY

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has revealed its first virtual reality (VR) exhibition, exploring key moments in the evolution of architectural styles over the last 500 years.

This new commission by multidisciplinary design studio Space Popular raises one of the most enduring concerns of architecture: the rise and fall of styles. Drawing on RIBA’s world-class collections, Space Popular uses virtual reality to examine architecture styles of the past – from the Renaissance to postmodernism – while considering technology’s impact on contemporary buildings and spaces.

Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media welcomes visitors into an immersive environment, exploring the impact of popular cultures and technologies on the evolution of architectural style. The VR narrative is enriched by 22 exclusive and historic artefacts from the RIBA collections, spanning 500 years of architectural history, including books, stereoscopic prints, photoprints, drawings, negatives, patterns and sketch books. Highlights include ¬original works by Owen Jones, Augustus Pugin and John Nash, while featured buildings range from the beloved Brighton Pavilion, Kensington Pagoda and the Crystal Palace, to the myriad social VR ‘spaces’ available online.

A large-scale architectural model, custom-designed by Space Popular, dominates the RIBA Architecture Gallery. This is accompanied by a bespoke colourful carpet, representing technological periods throughout history, which aligns with the timeline of the model.

An elaborately crafted VR experience takes each visitor on an illuminating tour through the space, guided by knowledgeable ‘avatars’ that link animated and physical content. In addition, 15 students from London Design and Engineering University Technical College participated in a special co-creation programme with Space Popular and RIBA. This collaboration allowed the students to produce alternative interpretations and their own VR environments, also displayed in the gallery.

Co-founder of Space Popular, Lara Lesmes, says:

“Styles are most easily recognised as patterns, which can translate across mediums, from cutlery to textiles, furniture to buildings. This show explores how style relates to popular culture and technological changes.”

Co-founder of Space Popular, Fredrik Hellberg, says:

“Architectural style has throughout all of human history been the most class dividing art. As spatial media makes its entry through virtual reality, this may finally change.”

Freestyle is the second in a series of installation exhibitions based on the iconic publication by Italian renaissance architect, Sebastiano Serlio: The Seven Books of Architecture. The first exhibition, Disappear Here – On Perspective and other Kinds of Space, saw the architect Sam Jacob respond to Serlio’s first book on geometry and perspective. Freestyle takes its cue from the fourth volume, titled On the Five Styles of Buildings. An early edition of Serlio’s work forms part of RIBA’s Rare Book collection, and features in the show.

The exhibition has been supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. It is part of a RIBA season of wide-ranging events, including free curator tours and a lecture with Space Popular at RIBA on 17 March. For more information visit here


Notes to editors:

1. For further information contact Emily Stallard in the RIBA press office: / 020 7307 3813

2. Press images can be downloaded here.

3. Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media is curated by Shumi Bose, Curator Exhibitions, RIBA.

4. The exhibition is part of a RIBA season of wide-ranging events and workshops, designed for all ages and experience levels. Further information here.

5. The Architecture Gallery at RIBA is open from 10am – 5pm Monday to Saturday and until 8pm every Tuesday. It is closed on Sundays. Free entrance. RIBA is at 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD. Nearest tubes are Oxford Circus, Regent’s Park and Great Portland Street.

6. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. Follow @RIBA on Twitter for regular updates

7. RIBA Collections Since its foundation in 1834, the RIBA has amassed one of the world’s largest and richest architectural collections, which now comprises over four million drawings, books, models and photographs.

8. Space Popular is a multidisciplinary design and research practice led by Lara Lesmes & Fredrik Hellberg. Space Popular makes architecture, products, furniture graphics, interfaces and research.

9. Sebastiano Serlio is one of the most important but unnoticed architectural writers and the first to emphasise the practical rather than theoretical aspects of architecture. His writing was unusually accessible - using predominantly visuals rather than text and writing in the vernacular rather than Latin – to communicate complex ideas. An early edition of Serlio’s work forms part of RIBA’s Rare Book collection.

10. This exhibition is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England; for more information please visit here

11. Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media is accompanied by Forms of Industry: Photographs by Alastair Philip Wiper and Eric de Maré on the RIBA First Floor Gallery from 26 February 2020.

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