Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out

Client: Rogers Harbour Stirk + Partners

Location: Royal Academy of Arts, London

Year: 2013


Brief: To design an interactive exhibition exploring the work, ideas and influences of the architect Richard Rogers. The show launched the Royal Academy’s new architectural programme at Burlington Gardens.

The exhibition occupied an antechamber, two galleries and a final space with multi-tiered seating. The last one was designed to support a programme of themed talks and events as well as providing somewhere for visitors to linger, informally discussing, debating and communicating their ideas for a better London.

We took a number of the key principles underpinning Rogers’ practice – such as A Place for All People and The Language of Construction – and used them to establish a thematic rather than chronological structure to this retrospective display.

The exhibition was designed on two planes: the vertical, which displayed the buildings and the ideas behind them; and the horizontal which elaborated the man himself, his life story, influences and unique ethos. Models were presented informally on open display, at heights that varied according to purpose, so an urban planning study was placed on a low table affording an over-view, while a sectional model was raised to eye-level.

The wall display ran continuously around the main galleries, incorporating original drawings, blown-up sketches and project photography, films, projections and 1:1 prototypes. A lower shelf ran below this, holding personal artefacts, inspirational materials and stories, along with Rogers’ own notebooks as a continuous reference datum running across all themes.

The display was punctuated by a series of strong graphic interventions – manifesto-like flag-signs and panels carrying inspirational quotes, thematic statements and project-specific commentary alongside Rogers’ personal stories.

Inspired by the architect’s humanist approach we wanted to engage all kinds of visitors – from fellow practitioners to tourists and school parties – making ideas the hero of the show. To achieve this we used a design language of vibrant colour and tactile materials to introduce a feeling of informality and accessibility, mixing the scale of artefacts and images and using moving images, low-fi magnetic surfaces and pin boards to build rich layers of content and animate the space, creating an immersive world of Richard Rogers.

The exhibition attracted 48,711 visitors in 4 months and helped establish the Royal Academy as a forum for engagement and debate.

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Richard Rogers + Architects: From the House to the City