Alison’s Room: An Extended Reality Archive – Paula Strunden
The installation Alison’s Room explores the possibilities of virtual and mixed reality technologies in relation to archival studies and design research. To this end Paula Strunden recreated the original work room of British architect and author Alison Smithson to experiment with new narratives combining immersive experience with history-based design knowledge.
Alison Smithson (1928-1993) was one of the early protagonists of the New Brutalism together with her husband Peter (1923-2003). They were founding members of Team 10, and Alison herself authored various seminal publications on Team10. The Smithson papers of Team 10 are kept in the collection of the Nieuwe Instituut.
The Smithsons worked from their combined house and office Cato Lodge, in South Kensington, London, where Alison enjoyed a work room of her own, separate from the office and everyday home life. Here, she kept the office and publication archive, including photos and slides, project dossiers, correspondence, and various manuscripts.
Alison’s work room doesn’t exist anymore in its original state. The life-size installation reconstructs the room on the basis of a photograph of family friend and photographer Sandra Lousada. The installation combines spatial experiences of key designs by Alison Smithson with text documents and image collections. Special tools, buttons and a speaking cat help the visitor navigate the storylines. In this way the visitor can experience the designs for the House of the Future of 1956, the Hexenbesenraum for Axel Bruchhäuser realised in 1996 and the Parallel of Life and Art installation of 1956. While moving through Alison’s room and interacting with the objects at hand, visitors are invited to explore the multi-sensory nature of memories and speculate on the possibilities of knowledge production through new forms of embodiment.
About Paula Strunden
Paula Strunden is a transdisciplinary artist with a background in architecture. She studied in Vienna, Paris and London and worked at Raumlabor Berlin and Herzog & de Meuron Basel. Since 2020, she has been conducting her practice-based PhD as part of the European research network TACK under the direction of Angelika Schnell at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. As part of her associate position at Store Projects and founder of the internet platform XR Atlas she advocates an interdisciplinary historiography of virtual technologies and teaches extended reality summerschools, workshops and courses internationally.
Jaap Bakema Study Centre
Alison’s Room is a project by Paula Strunden, developed as part of the EU-sponsored project TACK: Communities of Tacit Knowledge in Architecture, in collaboration with Dirk van den Heuvel and the Jaap Bakema Study Centre.
Photography: Alison’s Room: An Extended Reality (XR) Archive by Paula Strunden, Nieuwe Instituut, 2022 © Photo by Riccardo de Vecchi.
Drawings: Alison’s Room: An Extended Reality (XR) Archive by Paula Strunden, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, 2022.