1:1 - Architects Build Small Spaces at the V&A

L shaped wall made from concrete blocks
'Ratatosk' by Helen & Hard, 2010, for the V&A
(Image credit: Press)

If you like minimalist grown-up playgrounds and fairytale houses with some serious architecture credentials, then you will love the new '1:1 - Architects Build Small Spaces' exhibition at the V&A. Featuring seven full-size structures built on various locations within the museum grounds, this engaging show will keep not only the architecture-lover, but also the child in you, entertained, with everything from mini Japanese tea ceremony tree-houses and a cosy wooden library tower, to a forest-inspired structure made of Norwegian ash trees and a narrow corridor complex transporting you to life in high-density urban centres.

Choosing the seven installation concepts from an original list of 19 submissions from architects around the world, V&A curator Abraham Thomas wanted a selection of architects that would 'operate in an area away from the mainstream.' He picked projects from young or relatively new architecture practices - such as Terunobu Fujimori – offering a fresh approach to issues of materiality, as well as the building process.

'In a way Rural Studio summarises the attitude that a lot of these practices share; the idea that at the heart of the practice is building, creating, making... It’s not about having this perfect image of a pristine building. It’s about the process,' Thomas told us.

If you head to the V&A from today until the end of this summer, you will be able to see full-scale structures by Helen & Hard Architects (Norway), Studio Mumbai (India), Sou Fujimoto (Japan), Rural Studio of Auburn University (USA), Rintala Eggertsson (Norway), Terunobu Fujimori (Japan) and Vazio S/A (Brazil), all created in the space within the museum, which was allocated to them according to the nature of their concept. Meanwhile, in the Architecture Gallery, visitors will be able to see all 19 initial submissions, presented through models and drawings.

Behind the playfulness of the fact that the visitors are not only able, but also encouraged to get in the structures and walk in, around and through them, lies a conscious effort by Thomas and the V&A team to offer alternative ways of architectural presentation. 'The audience is used to architecture exhibitions that can be very mediated and about drawings and models and photographs. There are always so many layers between the audience and the final object. I felt that what we had to do in this exhibition was to present the thing that was almost always absent in those exhibitions: the building itself', says Thomas.

Aiming to highlight direct spatial experience as its main protagonist, this exhibition will give the audience the chance to not only see, but also touch, hear and smell the buildings first hand. 'I am hoping this exhibition will help audiences and the public understand the importance architecture has and the fact that we are all active participants in the physical transactions that happen. It is important that audiences have the chance to see architectural concepts like that first hand and in full scale,' adds Thomas.

And what will happen to the structures after the show? 'We want to find good homes for them and give them an afterlife,' says Thomas. The V&A is working with Philips de Pury and a series of auctions coming up soon after the exhibition’s end will certainly help secure their future.

 'Ark' by Rintala Eggertsson Architects

 'Ark' by Rintala Eggertsson Architects, 2010, for the V&A

(Image credit: Press)

'Woodshed' by Rural Studio, Auburn University

'Woodshed' by Rural Studio, Auburn University, 2010, for V&A

(Image credit: Press)

 'Inside/ Outside Tree' by Fujimoto

'Inside/ Outside Tree' by Fujimoto, 2010, for the V&A

(Image credit: Press)

In Between Architecture by Studio Mumbai

'In Between Architecture' by Studio Mumbai, 2010, for the V&A

(Image credit: Press)

Beetle’s House by Terunobu Fujimori

'Beetle’s House' by Terunobu Fujimori, 2010, for the V&A

(Image credit: Press)

Spiral Booths by Vazio S/A

'Spiral Booths' by Vazio S/A, 2010, for the V&A

(Image credit: Press)


V&A South Kensington
Cromwell Road
London SW7 2RL


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).