The prototype installation Alison’s Room explores the possibilities of virtual and augmented reality technologies in relation to archival studies and design research. Paula Strunden has recreated the original workroom of British architect and author Alison Smithson to experiment with new narratives, offering a fresh combination of immersive experience and the communication of history-based design knowledge.
Alison Smithson (1928-1993) was one of the early protagonists of New Brutalism in architecture, together with Peter Smithson (1923-2003), her partner in work and life. Important designs include the Robin Hood Gardens housing estate and the offices for The Economist, both in London. The couple were founding members of Team 10, and Alison herself authored various seminal publications on Team10, including the Team 10 Primer (1964, and 1968). The Smithsons’ Team 10 papers are kept in the national collection at Het Nieuwe Instituut.
The Smithsons worked from Cato Lodge in South Kensington, their combined home and office. Here Alison enjoyed a private workroom of her own, separate from the office and everyday home life. She maintained the office and publication archive, including photos and slides, project dossiers, correspondence and various manuscripts in the making, in this workroom.
The Smithsons’ office and home, including Alison’s workroom, no longer exist in their original state. The life-size installation reconstructs the room on the basis of a photograph by 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.