The Burlington Gardens wing of the Royal Academy was originally built for the University of London between 1867 and 1870 by Sir James Pennythorne. Long isolated from the main building of the Academy, the recent refurbishment has joined the two buildings together, but its classical interiors have now been disrupted by an architectural installation and by the British artist Phyllida Barlow who represented the UK at the 2017 Venice Biennale when she took over, filled, transformed and blew apart the classical architecture of the British pavilion. She has form!
Four architectural practices – Giles Retsin Architecture, SanLAB Projects, Keiichi Matsuda and Soft Bodies – have come together to explore how the digital and the physical worlds interconnect in architecture and digital experiences set within a contemporary modular structure designed and manufactured by computers, while, in three adjacent galleries, Phyllida Barlow explores, in a similar way, how the artistic and architectural worlds connect and clash, with the art disrupting the architecture, distorting it, breaking the classical rules, while she explores how the two interconnect to create different spatial experiences for the visitor to explore.
The Royal Academy has a touch of mischievousness and humour as, on a cold March Monday morning, many of the visitors to the two exhibitions were Members of a certain age who had just been to see the Renaissance Nudes in the Sackler Wing – the contrast must have been quite a shock, but the younger viewers were appreciative of it and these are the future of the RA.