Photograph by Lyndon Douglas
Courtesy of the Barbican Art Gallery

As I planned going to the Architecture as Air installation by Junya Ishigami at the Barbican Art Gallery, I antipated seeing something spectacular. I never expected the thing that would wow me would be what I couldn’t see.

The project is a continuation of his installation Study for Château la Coste, which won the Golden Lion for best project at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2010 for its extreme architectural innovation in thinness, visibility and lightness. All expectations aside, what is truly amazing about Ishigami’s installation is how it skews the viewer’s perception of space by eliminating the border between architecture and the environment it resides in. Along with a few others who had managed to sneak off work to venture to the Barbican on a busy Monday afternoon, I looked confused, wondering where the actual installation was. After taking off my shoes, I walked barefoot into the strikingly white space, and realised that there was something to see after all.

Imitating the visibility and the idea of a cloud in the sky, the structure appears to be made up of thin strings that resemble the material of a spider web. The construction is 4 meters high and seems to stand on its own. Ishigami creates architecture that with its bare existence fluently blends into its environment only revealing its composition at very close inspection. He poetically describes it as: ‘Architecture that floats lightly in the air, soft and fluffy like a cloud, transparent and intricate like an airflow, vast and enormous, but even then having no substance.’

Minimalism is a beyond trendy term in all design related fields and one that has frequently been thrown around to describe anything vaguely simplistic or Scandinavian. Coming from Finland, I don’t use the word lightly, but I will use it here. Junya Ishigami’s installation is the definition of Minimalism with its painstaking experimentation, research and remarkable concept in the background. His play on perception, scale and materials has been said to redefine the aesthetics of Minimalism, and justly so.

To see (or try to see) Architecture as Air, you have to be quick. Visit the Barbican’s Curve Art space before the 16th of October 2011. Free.

The Curve
Barbican Art Gallery
Opening times: Daily 11am – 8pm and every Thursday LATE until 10pm
Barbican Centre
Silk Street
London EC2Y 8DS

Words by Eve Keskinen

Photograph by India Roper-Evans
Courtesy of the Barbican Art Gallery


Architecture as Air, Junya Ishigami, the Barbican,