Power, women and architectural designs at the latest RIBA show
‘Radical Rooms: Power of the plan’ opened at the RIBA in London, discussing the role of power and women in architecture throughout history, particularly in the development of residential floor plans
A new exhibition has just been inaugurated at the RIBA headquarters in London. “Radical Rooms: Power of the plan” is an immersive spectacle, celebrating the often overlooked role of women in architecture throughout history – as designers and curators, which was also recently signaled during the name change. of the Edith Farmsworth house of Mies van der Rohe in the United States. Created in collaboration between the architect Charles Holland and the artist Di Mainstone, the exhibition combines drawing and theatre, presenting not only architectural plans and photographs from the rich archives of the RIBA, but also an audiovisual element full of colors, costumes theater and performances, which bring displays to life in captivating ways.
The concept of the show is based on “an alternative history of the female protagonists Bess of Hardwick, Jane and Mary Parminter and Patty Hopkins”, explain its authors. Using Hardwick Hall, A La Ronde and Hopkins House (three key British houses created by Bess, the Parminters and Hopkins respectively) as case studies, Holland and Mainstone explore the power of these women in shaping the domestic floor plan and how individual houses helped challenge the conventions of residential architecture.
The examples span periods and styles, with Hardwick Hall dating from 1597, A La Ronde from the 18th century and Hopkins House from 1976. Yet they were all forerunners in their design, inspiring change in their time and beyond. “The starting point was an attempt to [architect and historian] Robin Evans, where he traces the history of the hallway – a seemingly mundane item that has a profound impact on things like privacy and social segregation,” Holland explains. This has led to extensive investigations into the development of the floor plan of British houses through time – and the female figures that prompted it.
The exhibition is delightfully and thoughtfully brought to life by specially commissioned films showing poetic and alternate versions of the four women, dressed in geometric and colorful costumes, engaging the visitor through sound and movement. The aforementioned houses, and many more, are arranged around these films, with designs hidden behind curtains in such a way as to allow the guest to explore the screens at their own pace, providing both a sense of mystery and of discovery. “It’s not meant to have a didactic linear order,” Holland says. §