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Project launch - Trip to the Barbican to meet curators of the Japanese House exhibition and architectural designer Sahra Hersi


To kick off the project students met with curator Chris Webb. They were given an introduction into the content of the exhibition, the social history and design ethos behind the Japanese House. Discussion opened up into how domestic spaces in Japan are viewed in comparison to how we view our homes in London. Chris gave us an insight into the layers of research curators complete  to put on an exhibition. He explained the lengthy time scales for preparation and the decision/editing process that curators work through.

Chris was able to explain his own route into a career as a curator and the challenges he faced achieving this - trying to gain work experience, keeping in contact and networking.

After an explore of the exhibition students talked with architectural designer Sahra Hersi about her  interpretation of the exhibition and how Japanese architecture has influenced her own practice. As a designer Sahra is especially interested in the social implications of architecture and explained her drive to work in the field because of its impact on peoples day to day lives. Sahra discussed with the students the ways in which architecture can support societies interactions and how communal spaces in cities are navigated depending on the designs of architects and urban planners. Students discussed their own experience of the city and began to think about how the Japanese cities they had seen in the exhibition compared to London.


Japanese House 1


Inside the exhibition students were given a series of quick and speedy tasks to complete. Some of these encouraged students to think about the use of space, how inhabitants live in spaces and the function of rooms. Students took photos and made sketches, recording and documenting the exhibition for later work back at college.

Exhibition Research/Tasks:

  • Pick one structure and imagine the inhabitant and their lifestyle by drawing or listing their belongings inside.
  • Find a 1 quote/word/ or phrase from the text in the exhibition connected to the following words that inspires you: Tradition, Lifestyle, Consumption, Domestic, Solution
  • Create a collage of a design of a domestic space inspired by the exhibition. Use loose paper on the floor of the exhibition. Use the images provided or create small drawings. Layer and overlap fold and turn, use markings on the floor to suggest features your design. Photograph this, change it and repeat creating another design.


  • Make a drawing of your collage using only 10 lines. Play with different types of lines - broken, quick, slow, heavy straight. etc.


  • With a partner who has their eyes closed describe a building in the exhibition, they then have 3 guesses to find it. You should try to explain what the qualities of the building are. Together write 3 sentences that best describe this exhibition to someone who hasn't seen it. (Remember that you want them to be a able to visualise what the exhibition looks like.)


  • Analysing the models. Write recipe style instructions for how one of the models was constructed, and what materials/techniques have they used.


  • Consider perspective and angles - Sitting on the floor or crouching down look up at some of the elements in the exhibition and make 5 X 1 min drawings. Repeat looking down then repeat looking through/past a model.


Students took pictures of the exhibition to bring back to college.

Working with collage materials to respond to the designs seen in the exhibition.

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