• 23 May 2018

Ahead of the release of the major new digital publication The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle, 1769–2018 on 30 May 2018, Research Assistant Thomas Powell will be giving a 'behind-the-scenes' look at the Chronicle, read the first two posts in this series here.

When I spoke to Charlotte Strick and Claire Williams Martinez (the duo behind the Brooklyn based design team Strick&Williams) earlier this week to ask about their work on The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle, 1769–2018, we ended up talking a fair bit about architecture.

Last week, the Royal Academy unveiled a major redevelopment designed by David Chipperfield Architects linking Burlington House to Burlington Gardens. The project has opened up entirely new spaces for the Academy while also allowing visitors interesting ways to explore the existing buildings. It’s the latest in a series of changes to the Academy site that has seen the 17th Century building layered with Victorian structures and more modern interventions.

“Our design for the Chronicle draws on a similar layering,” they told me, beginning with the idea of a ‘collapse of time’ that will allow users to explore “surprising juxtapositions of art and architecture from different periods in history”. This is uniquely possible thanks to the digital format of the Chronicle.

But while it is a digital project, Strick&Williams’ designs for the Chronicle draw heavily on physical sensations associated with the Academy’s 250-year history. Soft, neutral tones—evoking parchment—provide the backdrop to each page and differently weighted typefaces suggest the passing of time. Meanwhile, hand-drawn charts found in old publications inspired their presentation of the data I discussed last week. The design also incorporates sensations they remember from childhood visits to the Summer Exhibition, where vivid colours and brave curatorial decisions energised its historic setting. “It’s all about putting users in that space,” they concluded.

To get a sense of Strick&Williams’ design in action, here’s a sneak peek inside The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle, 1769–2018:

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle, 1769–2018

Introduction to the Royal Academy Chronicle, narrated by Mark Hallett and Sarah Victoria Turner.

About the author

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    Thomas Powell - Independent Researcher