Imperial War Museum: Architecture of War (until 5th May 2014)

The Imperial War Museum, SE1, has a stellar reputation for providing information on the First and Second World Wars beyond that of standard history lessons. Their exhibitions are always a step further, abandoning textbook citations and allowing visitors an interactive experience, with the use of different media including artefacts and video, for intergenerational accessibility.

'Architecture of War' implies that we will have the chance to immerse ourselves in architecture of years gone by, and learn of how it coped in war-torn Britain. However, what we are met with is something slightly different. I personally have never been to an exhibition consisting of solely architecture, so I was more than eager to visit this at the Imperial War Museum.

The collection is not merely a variety of paintings based on architecture; each piece tells its own unique story. Excitingly, viewers can interpret this from a composition of the citation, details from the image and our own knowledge.

Another pleasing aspect of the exhibit is how different media have been used in order to convey and highlight certain things. For example, Paul Seawright's 'Room 1', pictured below, is one of the only pieces of photography. As the subject matter is a Taliban barrack in Afghanistan, Seawright's use of photography shows us not only the urgency and very real peril, which is also expressed in the way that the room is laid out having been destroyed, but the relevance and symbolism of 'Room 1' to a modern viewer.


That's what sets this exhibition apart from expectations, within the museum and beyond: the careful use of media, including Adrian Hill's 'The Gas Guard'. Its use of dense black ink shows us the danger, the panic and the darkness that war brings to civilians and soldiers alike. A haunting, subduing collection, Architecture of War is a must for lovers of history who are interested in an alternative edge on war.

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