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John Hejduk

London Masque

Ronald and Rita McAulay Gallery

22 Mar — 21 May 2023

Experience the architectural brilliance of John Hejduk with this large-scale model of the ‘Widow’s House’ at the heart of the RA.

• You don’t need a ticket to visit this free display.
• Download our large print guide.

Architecture in the Ronald and Rita McAulay Gallery is a new free exhibition space at the heart of the RA. This ambitious installation features Hejduk’s design for the Widow’s House, one of 68 “objects” in his seminal Lancaster / Hanover Masque, brought to life.

The late American architect John Hejduk (1929 – 2000) believed that ideas were as important as buildings and that architecture had the power to evoke alternative worlds. Masques – popular royal entertainments of the 16th and 17th centuries featuring fantastical costumes and moving sets – inspired Hejduk to transform the way architecture is taught and imagined.

The Lancaster / Hanover Masque draws inspiration from an eclectic range of sources, including the novels of Thomas Hardy, English fairground attractions and American agricultural buildings. Hejduk used allegorical stories and a large cast of characters to deal with themes of life, death, love and virtue. The Widow is one such character in the masque.

Hejduk described the Widow’s House as a “wailing room”, with the funnels on the roof made by “the Trombone-Maker, a craftsman of refined detail”. It refers to the Widow’s Walk, a feature of traditional New England houses thought to be built for the wives of whaling ships’ captains who would go up to these cupolas and watch the ships come in from sea. Often they did not come back. The Widow’s Walk was a form of surveillance and waiting, a place of reflection and anticipation.

This dark and mysterious tale contrasts with the comical, zoomorphic form of the structure with its four legs, head and tail. Hejduk saw that in life tragedy often sits alongside comedy, and that art and architecture give us a way of reconciling mixed emotions and conflicting ideas.

‘London Masque’ was developed in collaboration with students from the Royal College of Art MA Interior Design programme. During the life of the London Masque a series of workshops will explore Hejduk’s Lancaster / Hanover Masque and the resulting models and drawings will be displayed alongside the Widow’s House.

Design John Hejduk, built with permission granted by the Estate of John Hejduk.

#RAJohnHejduk

22 March 2022 — 21 May 2023

Tues – Sun: 10am – 6pm

Free, no booking required

Ronald and Rita McAulay Gallery