Architects Building Small Refuges in Small Spaces

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Images by B. Alter: Studio Mumbai Architects, In-Between Architecture

Architects love models and floor plans and drawings of their buildings, but most members of the public do not. They are too hard for the average person to visualize. In a delightful switch, the Victoria & Albert Museum invited seven architects to construct small buildings amidst the displays in the museum.

The V&A is a wonderful old Victorian museum with treasures in every nook and cranny. Called 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces, the architects have squeezed their little buildings in amongst the plaster statues, medieval guns and twisty stairwells. The buildings are small, but big enough to creep inside. Created by Studio Mumbai Architects, this is a plaster reconstruction of an illegal house for 8 people in Mumbai, squeezed between a warehouse and the architects' office. Now it is located amidst the V&A;'s huge plaster reproductions of Renaissance statues. It is a narrow building, with a tree up the middle, and slits that pass for windows. There are sleeping rooms barely high enough to stand in, winding stairways, and small internal courtyards around a plaster tree. It is improvised architecture in a city where space is scarce and land is expensive.

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Terunobu Fujimori: Beetle's House

The best thing about this show is the sense of delight and wonder. Squeezing into tiny spaces and unexpected rooms makes everyone happy and excited about architecture. It's fun! The beetle's house (above) by Japanese architect Terunobu Fujimori is a small tea house on stilts. Placed in the middle of the Medieval and Renaissance gallery, with old muskets and armour makes it even more exotic and other worldly. Made of charred wooden timbers, you enter by climbing a ladder barefoot, and squeezing inside.

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Helen & Hard Architects: Ratatosk

This creation is outside in the courtyard. With walls i.e. trunks made from 10 ash trees, and a roof of hand-woven willow, you walk on a soft floor made of wood chips. No one wanted to leave this organic hideaway. In fact it is more complicated; the folly was created through 3-D modelling and carved using a digital map derived from the scanning process.

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Rintala Eggertsson Architects: Ark

The Ark is a free-standing wooden tower that has a flight of stairs as its central core. Surrounded by thousands of books, you reach the top and can just peer into the reading room of the Museum. As you climb you can browse the books, and sit on a bench at each landing. From the outside the tower looks very cool and white because the pages of the books form the wall.

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Sou Fujimoto Architects: Inside/Outside Tree

This one is very cool and conceptual. It is a transparent shelter built entirely of sheets of acrylic polygons,and held together by white plastic cable ties. It is a stylised tree that you can stand in the middle of, and it feels very light and airy.

The V&A; has done a great job of bringing back the joy of architecture. Let's hope that they can keep some of these structures after the show closes as a reminder of how satisfying good architecture can be.

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Architects Building Small Refuges in Small Spaces
Architects love models and floor plans and drawings of their buildings, but most members of the public do not. They are too hard for the average person to visualize. In a

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