Oil change for the British living room

Excuse me while I slip into something more uncomfortable - an intense spatial experience, in fact
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STICKY sump oil streaming down all four walls of the Competitions Gallery at the Royal Institute of British Architects isn't because the central heating has sprung a leak. The Oil Room, by London-based architects Zombory-Moldovan Moore, has been judged the "Ideal Room" by the London Region of RIBA in a competition, writes Nonie Niesewand.

As you clamber up a steep ramp to reach the enclosure, after passing a "proceed with care" notice, the ceiling drops in relation to your height. If there is static in the air, sparks fly from the nylon fur with which it is covered. Even the padded leather floor underfoot is unstable. Architect- turned-decorator for the month of this temporary exhibition, Adam Zombory Moldovan, 36, wants to make us think about conventional shelter.

"Rooms should be enveloping and comforting, but at the same time this space feels dangerous. It's an intense spatial experience," he says.

Honey-coloured oily walls that continuously cascade from the leather- lined floor to the fake fur ceiling are made from screens saturated in Esso. A pump under the false floor distributes the viscous oil the length of the screens and back into a hopper in the false ceiling.

"Fluidity is part of its mesmerising experience," the architect says. "Normally you see oil in a can, or spilt on the ground, so this experience is tantalising. You want to touch but don't."

The architects deny that it is an artwork. "It may be on the threshold of art, but we're making a space that lasts for just a month, which is a rare opportunity for an architect," says Mr Zombory Moldovan.

"It addresses all the familiar notions of space - walls, floor, ceiling - and challenges your understanding of comfort, as well as your own uprightness."