Space Popular designs virtual portal for Sir John Soane museum

Architecture studio Space Popular has teamed up with Sir John Soane’s Museum in London to create an exhibition that examines “the magic and mechanics” of virtual travel.


The exhibition, titled Space Popular: The Portal Galleries, opens in June 2022 and will feature a history of portals in fiction, as well as studies of physical portals in the museum itself and a virtual reality portal.

Space Popular is now offering a teaser of the exhibition as part of its guest writing for Dezeen 15, a digital festival celebrating Dezeen’s 15th anniversary.

As part of the festival the studio buyout, founders Lara Lesmes and Fredrik Hellberg speak with Dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs in a live interview about the increasingly important role of textiles in virtual spaces, which was at the center of a manifesto written by the duo.

A virtual reality portal by Space Popular

Space Popular has worked with the museum on the exhibit since 2018, and the design and layout of the space influenced the studio’s approach to the project.

“Our understanding of virtual space finds its precedents long before any form of electronic media, stretching back to frescoes and tapestries,” Lesmes and Hellberg told Dezeen.

“We see the Soane as a device that enables the virtual experience of space, not only because of the objects we can find there, but also the way they are contained and displayed,” he added. .

“Folding walls, reflections or thresholds filled with artifacts are just a few of the many types of portals we find in the house museum.”

Visitors can “enter a new portal” through the museum

The exhibit will feature a new space film that visitors will experience through virtual reality headsets, which will allow them to “enter a new portal” through the museum – although the studio cannot yet reveal where that is. to lead to.

According to the studio, the history of the museum, which is located in the home of 18th century architect Sir John Soane and showcases his goods and collections, also had an influence on the subject of the exhibition.

“As the private home of an immensely privileged person turned into a free museum open to all, the Sir John Soane Museum is also an appropriate setting to reflect on the kind of exclusion and elitism so often seen in fiction, where Portals are often used as narrative devices to separate who can pass through the portal and those who cannot, ”Lesmes and Hellberg added.

The virtual portal will be accompanied by a historical study examining nearly 1,000 examples of fictional portals, including the Chronicles of Narnia wardrobe and the front door of Howl’s moving castle.

“A lot of our most popular portals are actually used to enable very problematic storytelling.”

Lesmes and Hellberg said the research for the exhibit made them change their minds about some old favorite fictional gateways.

Perhaps the most surprising finding in our study of portals in fiction is that many of our most popular portals are in fact used to enable highly problematic narratives of elitism, egomania, racism and colonialism. “, explained the studio.

“As a result, some of our favorites are no longer our favorites. The majority of the portals are, however, incredible creators of blessed magic which are a real joy to imagine.”

While it can only be experienced digitally, the virtual portal Space Popular is designing for the exhibit has its roots in the physical gateways the studio encountered.

Hellberg and Lesmes believe that referencing existing doors can help improve the virtual reality experience.

“The doors, thresholds, portals, etc., which we have experienced physically form the basis of any way to move between virtual spaces,” the studio said.

“The more we tap into the collective expectation of what a portal could be, the more comfortable and meaningful the virtual experience will be.”

Space Popular is one of 15 contributors to the Dezeen 15 festival, which features 15 manifestos featuring ideas that can change the world over the next 15 years.

See the list of contributors here and watch the video interview here.

Image courtesy of Space Popular.

Space Popular: The Portal Galleries will be on display at Sir John Soane’s Museum from June 29 to September 25, 2022. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events happening around the world.

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About Carlos V. Mitchell

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