…a piece of history@ House of Muses by GRUPPE at the Museum of London

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The House of Muses is an interesting little installation that was commissioned by the Museum of London and is placed under its entrance canopy. Swiss architecture/design collective GRUPPE won the competition held for it and the structure is shown as part of London Architecture Festival 2014. It is inspired by London’s historic architecture and specifically by Sir Christopher Wren’s St. Alban’s Church, the tower of which is the only part of the building that survives. I find the pavilion rather elegant while also quite successful in its attempt to remind one of classical forms without simply reproducing them. Post-Modernism’s caricaturing of similar styles is certainly avoided here. On the contrary the references in colour and geometry are there but slightly shifted.

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The pavilion is supposed to be a fragment of classical architecture but one is unable to identify where exactly it has been taken from. It is not for example a fragment of a column because it does not have the right shape. It reminded me of learning how to draw elevations of ancient Greek plaques with decorative motifs and how difficult it was to make the lines meet using the compass. It required a very steady hand, precession and confidence.

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The one thing that I disagree with is its placement. The canopy over it is just too close to the top of the installation and the whole thing feels a bit stuck under it. Walking around it and realising that it can be entered I understood the restrictions that required for the house of muses to be protected from the rain. Still I think that another solution could have been found for this problem. I believe that cramped as it is in its current position it loses in strength and people do not pay as much attention to it as they should.

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Once inside things are totally different. Its frame is wooden and looks like scaffolding. It reminded me of a theatre’s backstage where the main goal is to support the set on stage. Things are useful but are not meant to be seen hence are not required to be beautiful. I do not mean that in a negative way. On the contrary I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the white smooth exterior, with the warm informal interior. I believe that it is a good analogy for the way that architecture works in general. Much effort is invested in the appearance of buildings while what keeps them standing, the foundations, the structural frame, the utility shafts, are usually not beautiful but still truly essential.

As far as the interactive concept I am not entirely sure. The tags have random things written on them by the children that have entered the installation. I do not really find anything wrong with that. After all this is a museum visited by many schools so if the declaration of a teenage crush is what its visitors have to say, oh well, so be it.

House of Muses will stay at the Museum of London until September 21st

Find the Museum’s page about it here

GRUPPE’s website here

London Festival of Architecture program here

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