Standing face to face with an angel brandishing a golden goose can give you an entirely different perspective on the world. It is an experience that awaits in the Royal Academy where, jacked up eight metres into the air, you find yourself eye-level with one of the galleries’ ornate ceilings, swallowed into a scene of ovolos and astragals, anthemions and palmettes, a dense world of plaster mouldings.
Up here, everything looks bigger. You could pluck the plump golden fruit that hang from the looping garlands, or sample an egg from the egg-and-dart frieze. You can follow the empty gaze of the winged messengers, and peer down on ant-like visitors below. This is all detail you wouldn’t even notice from the gallery floor, yet raised up into the lofty realm of the ceiling it becomes your entire world.
This view is found at the top of a surreal wooden structure that now looms above the gallery like a gigantic children’s table, a square platform supported on four chubby cylindrical legs. It is one of seven such installations that fill the main halls of the RA, each designed by a different architect from around the world. The piece in question is the work of Pezo von Ellrichshausen, a Chilean-Argentine couple who craft houses of extraordinary power in concrete and timber, that feel hewn from their raw materials – often aided by clifftop locations of spectacular natural beauty. They are buildings tuned to a sense of weight and mass, of rough and smooth, of journeys from dark to light.