EXHIBITION REPORT – Alison’s Room: An Extended Reality (XR) Archive
Exhibited at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, by Paula Strunden
Based on the research conducted as part of my curatorial secondment at Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI) in Rotterdam, I developed an extended reality installation, that will be exhibited from 2 November 2022 – 4 January 2023 in the main foyer of the HNI.
The XR installation is one of the prototypes for a Virtual CIAM Museum, curated by Dirk van den Heuvel as a collective archive-based project of Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Jaap Bakema Study Centre, and TU Delft.
This XR archive prototype focuses on the reconstruction of the working room with archive of the English architect Alison Smithson (1928-1993). The room was originally located at the so-called “Cato Lodge” at 24 Gilston Road, London, where she lived with her life and business partner Peter Smithson and their three children from 1971 to 1993. The act of reconstructing Alison’s Room departed from a single picture taken by English photographer Sandra Lousada before its material collection was split between Harvard University, the Netherlands Architecture Institute, and the Smithson Family Collection in 2003. By re-materialising and re-spatialising the photography, the atmosphere of the place and its material objects — the curation of its artefacts, how they were placed, ordered, and cared for — are rendered “experienceable” for a public audience for the first time. By moving through the room and interacting with the objects at hand, texts, drawings, and architectural projects created by the Smithson between 1956 and 1996 are gradually coming back to life. One by one, visitors are invited to slip into a fictitious moment in Alison’s life to explore the binary divide between measured reality and drawn fiction, delving into the space between historical truth and narrative truth.
Exhibition & Conference
The installation is free, and open to the public and can be experienced by booking timeslots during the following times: Thursday 24 November 5-7pm Friday 25 November 1-3pm and 4-6pm Saturday 26 November 1-3pm and 4-6pm Sunday 27 November 1-3pm and 4-6pm Wednesday 30 November 2-5pm Wednesday 07 December 2-5pm Wednesday 14 December 2-5pm Wednesday 21 December 2-5pm Wednesday 04 January 2-5pm
Weblink to the exhibition and booking of Alison’s Room:
Additionally, the preliminary research results were presented at a two-day-long international conference, that took place from 2-3 November 2022 at HNI under the title: “Disclosing Architecture Restoring, conserving and digitising the architecture collection”. In the first session, Alison’s Room I: VR & Immersive Environments (2 November, 11.00 – 12.35), I presented the research and making of the installation. My talk was introduced by Dirk van den Heuvel, head of the Jaap Bakema Study Centre and expert on the work of the Smithsons, and concluded by Angelika Schnell, professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. In the second session, Alison’s Room II: Expanding Archival Knowledge Through XR Design (2 November, 13.30 – 14.55), we invited two guests to explore previous and future possibilities of real and virtual models, in terms of interdisciplinary knowledge production and new narratives. Guests include Thea Brejzek, professor of spatial theory at the University of Technology, Sydney and author of The Model as Performance: Staging Space in Theatre and Architecture, and Keichii Matsuda, designer, filmmaker and founder of Liquid City. Dirk van den Heuvel, Angelika Schnell and myself, also joined the conversation.
Finally, the research results were presented and discussed at the two-day-long public Jaap Bakema Study Centre Conference 2022 that took place at TU Delft and Het Nieuwe Instituut Rotterdam from 23-24.11.2022 under the title “Building Data: Architecture, Memoires and New Imaginaries”.
Weblink to the JBSC conference session: https://jaap-bakema-study-centre.hetnieuweinstituut.nl/en/activities/building-data