Multidisciplinary design duo Space Popular invite visitors to experience the magic and mechanics of virtual travel in an exhibition that bridges the technologies of Soane’s time and ours. 

The exhibition responds to the virtuality of Sir John Soane’s Museum by focusing on ‘the portal’: a door or threshold that grants entrance into another environment, whether physical or virtual. The desire to travel virtually across time, space and realms has been a recurring theme in the collective imagination – one that many have explored through fictional narratives. 

Using Sir John Soane’s Museum as the point from which to begin a multidimensional journey, Space Popular – led by designers Lara Lesmes and Fredrik Hellberg – present their research on the portal through time and across media as two unique VR films, one in the Foyle Space and the other in our Exhibition Galleries.

Watch our introduction to the exhibition, then take a look at visualisations of Space Popular's archive below.



Space Popular's research has resulted in a database of more than 1,000 fictional portals. These are classified according to their attributes and are shown below as a series of types. 

Some are categorised by the type of travel – across time, space, or dimensions, others by the portal's creation – through technology, magic, or nature; the way in which it is used; how it can be initialised; and who has permission to use it. Many portals enable forms of exclusivity, such as the wall at Platform 9¾ in the Harry Potter books. 

The database also contains details about size, appearance and length of journey, and data about works in which they appear, such as genre, media or place of origin. 

These drawings display Space Popular's list of portal types – a project which is still in progress. These types offer a language and a historical framework to reference, so we can be more aware of their wider connotations and the experiences portals offer, in fiction and in the future.

Zoom in on the drawings to explore the research in detail.

We're excited to be hosting a series of events – tours, panels, workshops and learning opportunities – inspired by the themes of Space Popular: The Portal Galleries and offering insights into the research and artistry behind the exhibition.

23 July Architectural Photography: Introductory Workshop with photographer Grant Smith, 10am – tickets

27 - 28 July Holiday Workshop: Portals and Platforms, 9.30am  – tickets

29 July Space Popular Soane Late, from 6pm – tickets

31 July Curator Tour of the exhibition with Dr. Erin McKellar, 3pm  – RSVP

4 August Holiday Workshop: Design the Future (for 11 - 13 year olds), 11am – tickets

24 August Panel discussion: Portals in Popular Culture, 6.30pm (online) – RSVP

18 September Portal to your future: a Soane Museum Youth Panel event, 11am – information

23 September Space Popular: The Portal Galleries Live, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 6.30pm - 10pm – information


Photos: Gareth Gardner

Find out more about Space Popular