June 2010 »

1 posts from June 2010

30 June 2010

The Assessed Delights of Risk

Isn't England fantastic right now? OK. We may be out of the World Cup but the sun is still shining and there's a whole lotta summer to go yet.

Perhaps I'm a little wide-eyed, fresh off the plane after living on a small, though gorgeous, little Caribbean island for two years but oh, the grey-stoned civilisation of our cities and our sweet grass-scented countryside really does bring a tear to the eye - and not just hay fever tears. 

Walking through Hyde Park last week I couldn't resist burying my head in a bed of candy-coloured, wickedly perfumed roses. As I was doing so a man approached from the park's maintenance crew, not to tell me off - phew - but just to have a chat. 

While talking to my new friend, close to the Princess Diana Memorial, I learned that a woman was suing the park for "falling over". Apparently she had slipped on a damp patch of grass near to the water feature. Well grass can get wet when it's next to water, lady. Poor park. Silly woman.

The way we take (or do not take) responsibility for ourselves as we negotiate the world around us soon emerged as "the theme for the day".

Next stop was the V&A and a visit to the "Architects Build Small Spaces" exhibition which, simply put, is really, really wonderful. You have to go. (See www.vam.ac.uk/smallspaces.) The curator, Abraham Thomas, and his team have created perhaps the most perfect exhibition of architecture, inviting deep-feeling, intelligent architects to create exciting, soulful spaces at a scale that both fits an exhibition space (albeit one as vast as the V&A) and where the poetic potential for architecture can also be thoroughly realised.

I climbed into each and every installation - the sensation being like that of a tasting menu of building - and thrilled at just how "dangerous" some of the structures were. What if there had been a fire in Studio Mumbai's "In-Between Architecture" and we all got squished in the passages? 

Or there was an unseemly crush in Vazio's "Spiral Booths", and we tumbled off, through breaking glass and luscious red curtains to the museum floor below?

But the most heart pounding moments, in every way, were to be had in Terunobi Fujimori's "Beetle's House". I have loved his work since my friend, the architect Deborah Saunt of DSDHA told me about this cool Japanese architect who sets fire to his buildings - well not quite - he uses scorched timber (which happens to protect timber from infestation - my friends in the tropics please note). 

You climb up a shaky, little ladder into a tiny, precarious house and sit with no more than five other shoeless people while marvelling at how Fujimori has managed to pull off visual, tactile fairytale charm while still being thoroughly, intellectually modern. A must see, I reckon, for IMG00015-20100615-1453Prince Charles.

And I realised that an element of danger in a building, even if it's just inadvertently flashing your knickers as you climb up a ladder, makes you "feel" that building more...because it demands attention. And if a building feels good then an element of risk can make the good feel even better.