Memory lane: ’Childhood ReCollections’ opens at Roca London Gallery

Pictured: Denise Scott Brown’s family home in South Africa, by Norman Hanson, 1936
’Childhood ReCollections: Memory in Design’ is a new exhibtion at Roca London that invites a number of internationally lauded architects to take a trip down memory lane. Pictured: Denise Scott Brown’s family home in South Africa, by Norman Hanson, 1936
(Image credit: TBC)

Visitors to Roca's (opens in new tab) curvaceously cavernous London space are being invited to take a trip down memory lane. The upscale bathroom unit manufacturer is dedicating part of its showroom to a new exhibition, 'Childhood ReCollections: Memory in Design'.

Curator Clare Farrow has persuaded half a dozen internationally acclaimed creatives to explore their early memories and reflect on how they impacted on their career choices. Her impressive line-up comprises architects Daniel Libeskind, Kengo Kuma, the Madrid duo Nieto Sobejano, Denise Scott Brown, and Zaha Hadid, who designed the showroom, along with milliner Philip Treacy.

London design firm Mentsen (opens in new tab) has created a large, retro-looking cabinet reminiscent of old-fashioned museums, for each participant. To some of us, it might seem that Hadid, Kuma, Libeskind and Treacy are rarely out of the public eye. Is there anything we don't already know about them?

In fact, during her interviews with each, Farrow unearthed some intriguing, lesser-known details about their early lives. Libeskind's mother had a little private underwear shop in the Polish city of Łódź, and those garments were his first experience of structure and geometry; Hadid was much impressed by the mosque in Cordoba on a family trip; in Johannesburg, Scott Brown lived in an International-style house designed by her mother, where she remembers 'shinnying up pilotis, and playing ships on the spiral balcony stair'; and Kuma played in Second World War bomb shelters in the hills near his house. Those, he said, may have inspired his use of holes in his architecture.

In Mentsen's cabinets, photographs and childhood items sit alongside scents evoking these memories, that visitors can puff into the air via little perfume pumps. Farrow even inspired Libeskind and Kuma to create original sketches for the show – the former of the ghetto street where he lived, with his flat circled in red wax crayon, and the latter of the traditional wooden house where he grew up. 

Pictured: Denise Scott Brown in the Las Vegas desert with the Strip behind her, 1966

Curator Clare Farrow has persuaded half a dozen internationally acclaimed creatives to explore their early memories and reflect on how they impacted on their career choices. Pictured: Denise Scott Brown in the Las Vegas desert with the Strip behind her, 1966.

(Image credit: Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown)

Pictured: Walter Gropius’ design for the University of Baghdad by an unidentified artist, c. 1957

The impressive line-up comprises architects Daniel Libeskind, Kengo Kuma, the Madrid duo Nieto Sobejano, Denise Scott Brown, and Zaha Hadid, along with milliner Philip Treacy. Pictured: Walter Gropius’ design for the University of Baghdad by an unidentified artist, c. 1957. ’Baghdad used to be a very cosmopolitan place,’ says Zaha Hadid. ’At the time of my childhood it was undergoing a modernist influence – the architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Gio Ponti both designed buildings there.’ 

(Image credit: Harvard Art Museums/Busch Reisinger Museum, Gift of Ise Gropius)

Walter Gropius and the office tower of the University of Baghdad, 1967.

Walter Gropius and the office tower of the University of Baghdad, 1967.

(Image credit: Harvard Art Museums/Busch Reisinger Museum, Gift of Ise Gropius)

Pictured: Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan, 2007–12

During her interviews with each, Farrow unearthed some intriguing, lesser-known details about their early lives; for instance, Hadid was much impressed by the mosque in Cordoba on a family trip. Pictured: Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan, 2007–12. 

(Image credit: Helene Binet)

Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin, 2001

’The void, the emptiness, was so apparent that you didn’t need to ask the questions,’ explains Daniel Libeskind of the influence of the Holocaust on his architecture. ’The city of Łódź had a quarter of a million Jews before the war, and there was really nobody left, so it was apparent, even for a child.’ Pictured: Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin, 2001.

(Image credit: Daniel Libeskind Studio, New York)

Pictured: Daniel Libeskind playing his accordion in Łódź, Poland, 1955, aged nine

’My parents wanted to, but they were too afraid to bring a piano through the tenement courtyard, because of our terrible neighbours who would say, “You see, here are the rich Jews getting the piano!” So they brought a suitcase, and said to me, “Here is the piano, in a suitcase” .’

(Image credit: TBC)

Pictured: Kuma’s Great (Bamboo) Wall house, 2002

‘I am a product of the place – of the house and its natural environment,’ says Kengo Kuma. ’The satoyama in our backyard was mostly bamboo thicket. I used to tread on the ground where the bamboos were growing, and feel the aroma from their leaves.’ Pictured: Kuma’s Great (Bamboo) Wall house, 2002.

(Image credit: Satoshi Asakawa, courtesy Kengo Kuma & Associates, Tokyo)

Kengo Kuma with his father on the veranda of their traditional 1930s house in the suburbs of Tokyo, c. 1959.

Kengo Kuma with his father on the veranda of their traditional 1930s house in the suburbs of Tokyo, c. 1959.

(Image credit: Kengo Kuma)

Pictured: Nieto Sobejano’s competition-winning design for the Arvo Pärt Centre, Estonia, 2014

’All children are attracted by patterns, drawings, games,’ say Nieto Sobejano. ’During childhood, you do not establish differences between making things, playing or inventing patterns. What interested us later as architects is the ability to relate all those experiences with our work.’ Pictured: Nieto Sobejano’s competition-winning design for the Arvo Pärt Centre, Estonia, 2014

(Image credit: TBC)

Nieto Sobejano’s Contemporary Art Centre, Cordoba

Nieto Sobejano’s Contemporary Art Centre, Cordoba

(Image credit: TBC)

Pictured: Treacy in his studio.

All the colours that I use,’ explains the Irish milliner Philip Treacy, ’are really the Catholic church colours: the deep pink of the priest’s vestments, or pale blue; all my colour sense is very religious colours, beautiful damask golds.’ Pictured: Treacy in his studio.

(Image credit: Kevin Davies)

INFORMATION

’Childhood ReCollections: Memory in Design’ is on view from 17 September 2015 – 23 January 2016

ADDRESS

Roca London Gallery
Station Court
Townmead Road
London, SW6 2PY

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