London weather can be unpredictable at the best of times, but this month has been a total washout. That said, it has offered a chance to catch up on architecture and design exhibitions around town. At the Barbican Art Gallery, “Bauhaus: Art as Life” (through Aug. 12) requires plenty of time to absorb the more than 400 works from the world`s most famous art and design school.
Curated by Catherine Ince and Lydia Yee, the exhibition provides a comprehensive narrative of the school`s history, from its early years in post-World War I Germany to its demise in 1933, and a goldmine of Modernist architecture, product and graphic design, film and theater. The exhibition really shines when it reveals the people and personalities behind the famous products, like Josef Albers, Herbert Bayer, Marianne Brandt, Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius, Paul Klee and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
The Victoria & Albert Museum is showing a retrospective of one of our most inventive contemporary designers, Thomas Heatherwick. “Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary” (through Sept. 30) presents two decades of work, from experimental student projects to design objects and architectural work.
Items on view include a seed-tipped rod from the UK Pavilion Seed Cathedral at Shanghai World Expo 2010, and a full scale mock-up of the new London double-decker bus. Only the rear end of the bus is on display; to experience the real thing, you can take the 38 bus from Victoria to Hackney.
Last weekend saw the return of the biannual London Festival of Architecture. This citywide celebration of architecture is the lovechild of four organizations: RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects) London, the Architecture Foundation, New London Architecture and the British Council.
The festival offers visitors a range of outdoor activities and installations – weather permitting, that is. This weekend a temporary event space by Roz Barr Architects and Ramboll Engineers will be constructed from 7,000 sandbags outside New London Architecture on Store Street. Over the closing weekend (July 7-8) the focus moves to the areas of Hoxton and King`s Cross.
RIBA London is programming activities in Hoxton Square, while a series of “urban actions,” curated by the Architecture Foundation and the architecture firm Squire and Partners around King`s Cross, range from an imagination playground to events at the Carmody Groarke-designed converted garage, the Filling Station (which houses the restaurant Shrimpy`s).
If the weather doesn`t improve, the “Developing City” exhibition provides an educational diversion that focuses on change in the Square Mile area. It presents the buildings that will be taking shape in the coming years, as well as a proposal for the City of London in 2050 by John Robertson Architects and Arup. This utopian scenario envisions a “de-carbonized” financial district with pedestrianized streets and huge stretches of green space. Whether this project will ever be realized is uncertain, but it offers a promising glimpse of what could be.