Visit our Renzo Piano exhibition
Explore more about the art of making buildings...
From The Shard in London to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the buildings of Renzo Piano have enriched cities across the globe. In this exhibition, we reveal the vision and invention behind his pioneering work, showing how architecture can touch the human spirit.
To celebrate our 250th birthday, we’re exploring 250 beautiful, odd and inspiring objects from the RA Collection in 25 themes. With an exhibition of the architect Renzo Piano currently taking place at the RA, in this online exhibition we look at the some of the architectural works in the RA collection, from models to poems.
This drawing by Sir William Chambers, who played a crucial role in the creation of the Royal Academy, illustrates the origins of the Corinthian order (one of the classical styles of architecture). According to the Roman author Vitruvius, the sight of an acanthus plant growing around a basket was the inspiration behind the famous ornament reproduced here.
Sir Denys Lasdun's Diploma Work – the work he donated to the Academy on being elected an Academician – represents himself in the RA Collection. It's a photograph of a pile of wooden architectural models, relating to his design for the National Theatre on London's South Bank. On the wall behind the models is a large drawing of Lasdun's own hand holding a pen, drawing the theatre seen from the river Thames.
Several architect Academicians have presented models of planned or completed buildings to the RA. This model by Sir Michael Hopkins shows his scheme for the redevelopment of the Royal Academy, which was halted in 2003 due to lack of funds. Hopkins' scheme for the RA was markedly different to the later scheme by Sir David Chipperfield RA completed earlier this year, although they shared the ambition to create a central corridor to connect Burlington House with 6 Burlington Gardens, the RA's second site, purchased in 2001.
A section presents a building as if sliced open, allowing the viewer to see its inner workings. This work by Sir David Chipperfield shows his transformation of the historic Neues Museum in Berlin, which prior to his redevelopment had sat derelict since it was bombed during World War II. Chipperfield has since carried out the renovation of the Royal Academy, marking our 250th birthday.
Aerial views allow architects to present buildings in relation to their surroundings, in a way that few observers are able to experience in real life. This painting of the MAXXI museum in Rome was made by its architect Zaha Hadid RA, who used painting as a design tool throughout her career as a way of creating radical architectural forms.
This elevation shows the appearance of one side of a building. This coloured print was presented by Theo Crosby and shows his unrealised design for a monument commemorating the Battle of Britain during World War II. The suggested site was at Surrey Docks, South London, an area which underwent enormous changes during the 1980s. Viewers were to enter through a great pyramid before ascending to a viewing platform in a glass lift.
Architect Will Alsop's Diploma Work incorporates drawing, painting and collage. It relates to a 2007 project to redevelop a district in Toronto, Canada – but it is part of Alsop's thought process, rather than a literal plan of how his proposal would look. Alsop's buildings, such as his Stirling Prize-winning Peckham Library, invariably retain the colour and inventiveness of the architect's drawings and paintings.
Ian Ritchie is another architect with an unorthodox working process. Rather than beginning with sketches, Ritchie starts by writing- he believes "writing is essentially an act of discovery" which assists him in "finding potential answers to the design challenges at hand". Ritchie has presented numerous poetic texts to the RA, including this poem relating to his design for the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour at University College, London.
The Hungarian-born architect Ernő Goldfinger designed some of the most iconic Brutalist buildings in Britain, including the high-rise tower block Trellick Tower. This cut-away perspective drawing shows how residents access flats on three different levels from one common circulatory space. Goldfinger's original drawing was made c.1966, and in 1976 he printed out a copy of this drawing and made additions in pencil before presenting it to the RA as his Diploma Work.
One of the most ambitious architectural works in the RA Collection is Farshid Moussavi RA's project documenting the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art. Stored in an elaborate unfolding box, the unique work consists of over 100 components, displayed in a carefully-conceived layout.