(Photo: Arch Daily)
It’s probably unsurprising to hear that, out of all the structures in the V&A’s Architects Build Small Spaces exhibition, my favourite was the one that contained books.
But not just because I found it the most aesthetically pleasing. The initial brief for architects to design a space that ‘examine[s] the notions of refuge and retreat’. And although I enjoyed aspects of every sculpture I came across, it was Rintala Eggertsson Architects’ ‘Ark’, a reexamining of the concept of the archive, that, for me, summed up the theme of the exhibition entirely.
Situated at the bottom of the stairs leading to the National Art Library, ‘Ark’, the tower is filled with book upon book from a variety of periods and genres. On the inside you see the spines, whereas on the outside (where I chose to view the structure from – mainly due to there being a long queue to get inside and needing to meet a friend soon afterwards, rather than for any editorial purpose!) you can see the books’ pages. Obviously there were a couple of exceptions where they’d been piled up the ‘wrong’ way. With limited numbers of people allowed in the structure at the same time, visitors have the space to leisurely browse books and select a ‘private reading chamber’ to go through them. If I have time before the exhibition closes, I’ll definitely be going back to make the most of this and explore some more!
(Photo: Lamda Literary)
But even without going in, I felt absorbed by the sculpture. Even the stairs surrounding it felt a little bit like a retreat. There’s nothing quite like being around books. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that a ‘nipping into’ a bookshop can result in hours upon hours spent running my finger over spines and covers, sneakily taking a glance at the first few pages (Borders may be no more – in the UK anyway – but I’m determinedly taking their ‘try before you buy’ spirit with me to other bookshops), surrounded by that familiar, comforting new book smell. I’d venture so far as saying that these meccas are possibly my biggest weakness – and this is coming from someone who can spend a good few hours in the Oxford Street Topshop.
Just like the products themselves can transport you to different worlds, countries, towns – or just another person’s version of your current location – bookshops themselves have a similarly magical quality to take you away from the hustle and bustle of the street you walked off, to somewhere altogether more relaxing. Somewhere, as ‘Ark’ highlights, that is a refuge and retreat from reality (or your daily routine at least).
Entry to the Architects Build Small Spaces exhibition is free. It is on at the V&A until August 30th. For more information, visit the museum’s website.
(Photo: Kinda Like This)