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Review: Potential Architecture exhibition

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Owen Pritchard discovers a brave architecture exhibition that tests the limits

This week a new show opened at the Ambika P3 space in the basement of Westminster University. Potential Architecture presents four site-specific works by architects from Russia, Norway, Slovenia and the UK.

Alexander Brodsky, Sean Griffiths, Joar Nango and Apolonija Šušteršicˇ  are presented as architect-artists. Each has created a new piece of work that aims to ‘cultivate new ideas and alternative approaches around the built environment, their commissions indirectly responding to a growing critique of property

A number of shows have presented architecture under the auspices of art with success over the past decade

The four pieces hang together loosely: Šušteršicˇ has created a temporary debating space; Nango has explored his Sami heritage to develop a prototype for a cinema; Brodsky’s clay models are contained in a plastic cube; whereas Griffiths’s installation is a strange construction of levitating door frames and mirrors. Combined, the works create a complex landscape and, reflecting on the questions posed so succinctly in the show literature, it is not always clear how the intriguing exhibits relate to one another.

A number of shows have presented architecture under the auspices of art with success over the past decade.  Three in particular spring to mind – Psycho Buildings at the Hayward in 2008, 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces at the V&A in 2010 and last year’s Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy. In each case architecture was presented in a gallery as subject, not as facsimile or representation. It was architecture that responded to context but was too easily interpreted and discussed as a piece of art.  

The works on show at Ambika P3 are a provocation that, while not as glamorous or as neatly executed as the shows that preceded it at those more established institutions, does not allow the visitor to reduce the complexity of architecture to a decorative art.

While the show has its flaws, it is exactly the kind of exhibition that should thrive in a space like Ambika P3. If architecture can draw in the masses when on show at Exhibition Road or Burlington House, then it is the more nimble and critical institutions which can be brave enough to try to test the limits of what this kind of show can achieve.

Potential Architecture at the Ambika P3 gallery, University of Westminster, London NW1. Runs until 19 April 2015


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