There’s a scene in Ben Stiller’s 2001 comedy ‘Zoolander’ where the eponymous male supermodel smashes up an architectural model of a new school that’s due to be built in his honour upon seeing it for the first time. ‘How are we supposed to teach kids to read, when they cannot fit inside the building?’, rages the intellectually challenged fashion celebrity. His unfortunate misreading of scale is our comic delight.
Luckily, there have been no such dramatically destructive scenes at the Victoria & Albert Museum’s latest exhibition, ’1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces’, which invites visitors to consider constructed space in a more immediate and affective way than table-top models, drawings and photographs allow. Each located in a different place within the museum, a number of specially commissioned structures, intimate in size, ‘examine notions of refuge and retreat’ (which, given the fact that the V&A is often heaving with cultural tourists, is no bad thing). But beyond the desire they create to get inside them, they encourage a reconsideration of the larger, contextual spaces in which they sit by dint of the spatial dialogue they hold with them.