London architecture exhibitions 2023: a guide to the best shows this month

Exciting, beautiful and thought-provoking London architecture exhibitions; here's our pick of the finest in town, to visit and enjoy this month

2. Ships at a Distance, 2022 SADACCA, Sheffield
RESOLVE Collective at work: 'Ships at a Distance', 2022 SADACCA, Sheffield
(Image credit: Becky Payne Photography)

Lost in the capital’s rich offering of London architecture exhibitions? Worry not; we have checked out the cream of the crop and created a guide for the finest architecture shows to visit this month. There is something for everyone, with a wide-ranging set of approaches and topics on display, to cover some of the most critical issues of our times. Here is what occupies the mind of the architecture world right now; and how architects talk about it. 

THIS MONTH’S BEST LONDON ARCHITECTURE EXHIBITIONS

RESOLVE Collective: them’s the breaks

1. RESOLVE COLLECTIVE, (L-R) Seth Scafe-Smith, Melissa Haniff, Akil Scafe-Smith)

(Image credit: Jana Dardouk)

A new site specific installation has launched at the Barbican's The Curve gallery. The show is engaging as it is thought- and debate-provoking, set up by dynamic, emerging  interdisciplinary design practice RESOLVE Collective. The team, led by the studio's founders Seth Scafe-Smith, Melissa Haniff, Akil Scafe-Smith, 'foraged' for materials from across London and the South Coast, reusing elements from past exhibition to open conversations about structures, interaction, and the very fabric of our institutions. The show is accompanied by a range of events and activities throughout its running. Shanay Jhaveri, head of visual arts at the Barbican said: 'RESOLVE‘s commitment to forging connections, foregrounding sustainability, pushing boundaries, and championing local communities speaks to the Barbican’s own values, and we are excited to see them take over The Curve this Spring. The collective’s work on structural and social breakdown and repair is acutely timely in this era of global disruption, and indeed closer to home, as the exhibition invites us to reflect on what restoration, renewal and regeneration look like in an established institution like the Barbican. These are ideas that we and other arts institutions are constantly grappling with, so we’re eager to hear the important conversations that RESOLVE’s installation will spark.'

Until 16 July 2023

Zaha’s Moonsoon: An Interior in Japan

zaha hadid's moonsoon bar lounge area in japan

(Image credit: Paul Warchol)

Set at the Zaha Hadid Foundation on 10 Bowling Green Lane, 'Zaha’s Moonsoon: An Interior in Japan' takes us on a journey through the conception and making of the late great architect's iconic Moonsoon bar and restaurant, which was originally completed in Japan in 1990. The project, Zaha Hadid’s first completed one outside of the UK, offers insights into the ways of work and thinking through Hadid's early work. The displays offer a rich collection of drawings and paintings from the ZHA archive. ZHF inaugural director, Paul Greenhalgh said: 'Our latest exhibition showcases the creative processes behind one of Zaha Hadid’s earliest and less well known projects. Moonsoon was created at the time of the incredible explosion of the Japanese economy, and the design boom that accompanied it. Japan provided opportunities for emerging architects to work on experimental projects. For the Foundation, it is a chance for us to dive deep into the archives, and highlight works rarely seen before.'

Open until 22 July

Sweet Disorder and the Carefully Careless: Ideas, Faces and Places

Sweet Disorder and the Carefully Careless: Ideas, Faces and Places Robert Maxwell and Celia Scott

(Image credit: RIBA)

This is one of a couple of RIBA shows currently on display, and it focuses on the work of the architect, critic and educator Robert Maxwell. Through the lens of Maxwell's oeuvre, the exhibition takes the visitor on a journey across the 'post-war world of British architecture.' Architectural elements here mix with a display of a series of portrait busts by artist Celia Scott. They depict some of the key figures in late twentieth century architecture such as James Stirling, Alan Colquhoun and Edward Jones - all friends and colleagues of Maxwell. 

Open until 29 April

Sam Jacob: Against Nature

SAM JACOB AGAINST NATURE

(Image credit: Betts Project)

Located in Betts Project, the established Central London gallery in Clerkenwell that bridges architecture and contemporary art, this show delves into the relationship between buildings, and the natural landscape. It also represents only the second solo exhibition at the gallery by British architect Sam Jacob. 'Architecture is always against nature. Against as in next to. Against as in contrasting. Against as in protecting. Against as in anticipating. Against as in resisting. Against as in facing. Against as in touching. Against as in challenging. Against as in opposing. Against as defending. Against as defying. Against as a debit. Against as towards. Against as before. Against as comparison. Against as compensation. Against as contradicting. Against as preparation. Against as supporting,' the show's creators write. The display ponders this and more through a compilation of oil paintings. 

Open until 15 April 

Max Fordham: Engineering Ideas, Engineering Change

Max Fordham-Engineering Ideas, Engineering Change

(Image credit: Paul Vincent)

This show at London's Building Centre celebrates the life and work of preeminent engineer Max Fordham, who passed away last year. The exhibition, presenting a curated collection of drawings, models, original letters and videos, also hosts the winners of Archiboo's architect pitch competition (which is hosted by Fordham's namesake building services and environmental consultancy, in partnership with Archiboo). The winners, New Makers Bureau, scooped the top spot with their concept of the net zero neighbourhood. 'One thing Max liked to talk about was taking an idea and seeing where it goes, and we felt that New Makers Bureau’s idea of sourcing building materials from within a 50-mile radius was a great example of this. They delivered a great pitch and we felt it tied in with the discussions about 15-mile cities that are happening at the moment,' said Ali Shaw, principal engineer for Max Fordham. 'Congratulations to all the practices who pitched their ideas tonight, there was an exciting range of ideas and interpretations of the brief, and we really enjoyed hearing them. Max was a pioneer of sustainable building design, and this competition was a fitting way to launch the exhibition celebrating his life and work.' 

Open until 19 April

Vanishing Points: Architectural imagination in the Digital Universe

ana ragao drawing at the vanishing points exhibition in London at Roca

Ana Aragão, Babel © Claudia Rocha

(Image credit: Claudia Rocha)

Gensler architect Hamza Shaikh curates a show dedicated to the fine art of architectural drawing. 'Vanishing Points' focuses on drawing and architectural discussion, especially seen through the lens of our current social media boom and the genre's historical precedents from the Drawing Matter archive. Organised by the creative technique used, the exhibit offers five sections: Layers (collage, composites), Hands (whether drawn with a pen or digital tool), Fictions (images that tell stories), Metrics (those that involve a mathematical process) Abstract and Perspectives. 'I find that the most powerful imagery comes from experimenting with new technology and marrying that with traditional drawing concepts and techniques. Whilst architects are embracing the digital future, they also deeply respect the past. My work and this exhibition are very much an expression of that. The past is fleeting but always on our horizon; hence we named the exhibition ‘Vanishing Points,' says Shaikh. 

Open until 29 July 2023

‘Chinese and British’, The British Library

exhibition view of the Chinese and British show at the British Library

(Image credit: Jim Stephenson)

This free show at the British Library delves into the histories and legacy of Chinese people in Britain. The exhibition, rich with lesser-known stories that deserve a spotlight (and told in both Traditional and Simplified Chinese, as well as English text, ‘compositionally placed to create non-hierarchical relationships‘ as its creators stress), has been expertly designed by emerging architecture studio Pup Architects in collaboration with Studio Wan. There is ample audio and visual material, ranging from film to original documents that help tell the story of Chinese communities in Britain. This is supported by delicate, fun and engaging installations by the architects, complete with a model of a doll's house of a Chinese takeaway that brings to life this example of a business. ‘Within the community, there are diverse relationships to both “Chinese” and “British” identities and cultures; which can be nuanced, dynamic and sometimes conflicted,’ the press release states, and the exhibition certainly delivers, in this carefully put-together display curated by Dr Lucienne Loh at the University of Liverpool and Dr Alex Tickell at the Open University in collaboration with the British Library. 

Open until 23 April 2023

‘Long Life, Low Energy’, RIBA

displays at RIBA's Long Life, Low Energy exhibition

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

Long Life, Low Energy: Designing for a circular economy’, the latest exhibition to open at RIBA's London headquarters on Portland Place takes a much-discussed issue – namely sustainable architecture – and dissects it in a disarmingly clear and simple way. No mean feat, considering how complicated and multi-layered designing eco-consciously can be. But this show has it all – case studies, numbered sections and a straightforward, accessible breakdown of strategies and steps an architect can take in order to bring a piece of building design closer to that coveted net-zero result. 

Open until 29 April 2023

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).