The design duo has installed two moving mirrored panels in the ceiling of the Raphael Gallery at the V&A
“Have you seen it turn yet?” asks Edward Barber, before hurrying away to set in motion Double Space, his practice Barber Osgerby’s enormous installation at the V&A that opened to the public over the weekend.
Within moments, the two 15m x 9m curved mirrored panels above our heads start to move, reflecting and distorting the Raphael cartoons in the 600m space below. Engineered by Arup, each of the panels has one flat side and one convex side; they pivot around a central beam.
“It will stop in certain positions, then start again. It’s completely random and every time you come in it’ll be a different movement,” says Barber.
“It’s really fun to do these kind of monumental structures that change the way you look at things,” says his colleague Jay Osgerby. “Ed and I were sitting in the corner of this room last night, really exhausted, just watching the world turn around in front of our eyes.”
The room is dimly lit, except for a shaft of daylight at one end. “At first we wanted to block out the light, but there has to be at least 5 lumens of light in the room for health and safety reasons, so you can just about see yourself,” Osgerby says. “That’s very important in the age of the selfie,” he adds, pointing at his reflection above.
Painted in 1515, the cartoons are full-scale designs for tapestries that were made to cover the lower walls of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. “The whole installation is inspired by the room,” Osgerby says. “The Raphaels belong to the Queen, so she has to be able to come and see them at any point to check they’re okay. We had to get her approval to do the project. She liked it. Good job, really.”
Double Space can be seen at the V&A until 24 October