Contemporary design in Medieval France

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I recently visited the medieval castle of La Roche Jagu in Brittany, France, and came across a beautifully maintained site with grounds overlooking the valley of the Trieux river. The grounds on their own are worth a visit. They include different types of plants and trees, a beautiful medieval garden and fantastic views over the valley and river.

The interior of the castle has been renovated with care, with the new clearly defined from original elements yet also complementary. The ground floor is home to a permanent exhibition on medieval life, including smells and sounds that would have been common at the time. Herbs and other plants are encased inside furniture and visitors can lift a lid to smell them while information is displayed underneath. Single headphones held inside a medieval looking leather pouch provide phonic sensations. It’s all understated and tasteful and the guided visit is excellent, focussing on everyday knowledge and facts that enable visitors to immerse themselves in medieval life.

The upper floors are home to temporary exhibitions and this year’s was on design with spatial design contributions from Matali Crasset and M Studio, and intricate paper architecture and designs from Ingrid Siliakus, Beatrice Coron, Maud Vantours and Mathilde Nivet. The curator made great use of the spaces with paper designs hung to catch the light or delicately stand out against the rough stone wall. Matali Crasset created a timber air balloon for a school to use as part of a playground and colourful floor cushions for kids to lie on while watching an animated film. My personal favourite though was M Studio’s sensory space. It was full of surprises. Floors that looked hard were soft underfoot while objects that looked like lamps were actually aromatic plant holders of the head.

Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Barbican

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The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk

This theatrically-staged exhibition brings together more than 165 cutting-edge couture and ready-to-wear garments including iconic costumes for film and performance from the early 1970s to the present day…. More on the Barbican website

Aside from the amazing outfits of course, one of the most outstanding features are the animated mannequins whose expressions are at times a little surreal but nonetheless contribute to the exhibition the theatrical setting. This short film shows some of them but it’s best to see them first hand.

Gaultier animated mannequins

The curation and design of the exhibition successfully create an immersive atmospheric journey into the world of Gaultier, not always an easy thing to achieve in the galleries of the Barbican. The visual and acoustic senses are well represented though I was surprised that scents weren’t art of the experience since Gaultier has quite a few perfumes under his name. The experience continues in other parts of the Barbican, notably with the Gaultier bar on level 1, open for cocktails in the evening.

Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined

By Valerie Mace

On Thursday 27th of february 2014, we took LCC BA Spatial Design students to the Sensing Spaces exhibition at the Royal Academy. The RA invited 6 architectural practices from all over the world to create a full size pavilion/installation each in the gallery spaces: Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Suto de Moura (Porto, Portugal), Grafton Architects (Dublin, Ireland), Kengo Kuma (Tokyo, Japan), Li Xiaodong (Beijing, China), Pezo Von Ellrichshausen (Concepcion, Chile), Diebedo Francis Kere (Burkina Faso and based in Berlin, Germany).

We spent the afternoon exploring each installation and also investigating their effect on people including ourselves. Each pavilion offered a different gamut of sensory experiences and each provided a fully immersive experience. We were able to move through them, interact, play, touch, smell (and the corresponding taste), listen, etc. Sometimes it was moving, other times it was fun and at times intriguing even surprising.

We completed the visit with a lively discussion where everyone was able to express their personal impressions and perceptions. It would be very difficult to choose a favourite pavilion, each has wonderful qualities that can only be fully understood by first hand experience and active participation. We all agreed however that it was a unique and memorable experience and also that we learned a lot about the rewards of multi-sensory experiences in spaces. This is something we are very keen to explore further in the interior and surfaces of future spatial design projects on the course, looking this time at how we can enrich our sensory perceptions of everyday spaces and places.

A one of the Course Leader of the BA (Hons) Spatial Design and someone whose research interests focus on Spatial Experiences and more specifically senses and atmosphere, I’m attending a few other events linked to the exhibition. So far I have been to a talk on the making of the exhibition by the Curator Kate Goodwin and another talk on Staging Sensory Experiences with Chandler Burr, Bombas and Parr and Jo Malone. All fascinating and really insightful.

I have still to look forward to a full day’s symposia and sensing spaces on the 29th of March and I hope to be able to revisit the exhibition before it closes. The symposia is sold out but it is possible to download the full schedule at the bottom of the site’s page.