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Alison’s Room: An Extended Reality (XR) Archive


Paula Strunden


Dirk van den Heuvel

hosted by

Nieuwe Instituut (HNI)

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November 2, 2022

Exhibited at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam, The Netherlands from 2 November 2022 – 4 January 2023 in the main foyer of the HNI.

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.

Artist: Paula Strunden

Curator: Dirk van den Heuvel

UX Coding: Joelle Galloni and Malou Minkjan

Sound Design: Daniel Helmer and Max Liebich

Voice Over: Laura Cameron Wilson

Graphic Design: Delphine Lejeune

3D Modelling Support: Daana Bolot, Bats Bronsveld and Ruben Cahors

Building support: Eric Crevels and Henry Holmes

Team Nieuwe Instituut: Fatma Tanış, Ben Sharnier, Stefan Prins, Tom Prins and Bart Smits

Special thanks to: Anna Bach, Louisa Hutton, Evert Klinkenberg, Soscha Monteiro de Jesus, Bodo Neuss, Max Risselada, Simon Smithson, Soraya Smithson and Ines Zalduendo


The installation is one of the prototypes for a Virtual CIAM Museum, a collective archive-based project of Nieuwe Instituut, the Jaap Bakema Study Centre, and TU Delft. Alisons Room has been exhbited at Het Nieuwe Instituut from 21.11.22 – 04.11.23. More info here.