Radical Rooms: RIBA exhibition explores overlooked role of women in three iconic domestic projects
By Niall Patrick Walsh|
Monday, May 2, 2022
The Royal Institute of British Architects has launched a new exhibition which re-examines the role of women in architecture through the lens of the domestic plan. Radical Rooms: Power of the Plan was created by architect Charles Holland and visual artist Di Mainstone and runs until July 30th, 2022.
The exhibition is centered on an exploration of three domestic projects spanning 500 years: the 16th-century Hardwick Hall, the 18th-century A la Ronde, and the 20th-century Hopkins House. In each case, the exhibition explores how power structures are embedded in the domestic plan, revealing the social relationships of their time.
The exhibition is also used as an opportunity to explore the overlooked role of women in the design and development of the three projects, namely Bess of Hardwick, Jane and Mary Parminter, and Patty Hopkins.
In the case of Hardwick Hall, the exhibition highlights the overlooked role of Bess of Hardwick in adapting and realizing the proposed design by Robery Smythson, including modifications to ensure each room was striking both in scale and interior detail. The resulting scheme is recognized as one of the earliest examples in the UK of the influence of the European Renaissance.
For the 18th-century A la Ronde, the exhibition highlights the role of female cousins Jane and Mary Parminter. Following a decade-long tour of Europe, the cousins commissioned the sixteen-sided house with unusual interior decoration, including inlaid feathers and a shall gallery. Spatially, the interlinked rooms radiate out from a central triple-height hall, allowing the cousins to occupy rooms according to the time of day, subverting conventional concepts of functionality and use.
Finally, the exhibition explores the 20th-century Hopkins House, whose hi-tech style promoted the use of industrialized and standardized parts. Blurring the boundaries between home and office life, the scheme used a pared-down interior which flows from room to room with minimal separation or enclosure, “avoiding conventional domestic planning as much as it does conventional materials.”
To create the exhibition, Holland and Mainstone divided the gallery into three sections separated by fabric and carpet, referencing the specific details of each house. Inspired by a Palladian house plan, the exhibition forms an abstract grid of connected rooms, animated and occupied by the four women through elaborate costume design and a music score.
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