Pavilions in Architecture

 
 Graphic contributed by [Evan Tremblay]

Graphic contributed by [Evan Tremblay]

 

Earlier this week, Arch Daily posted photographs from Kensington Gardens, at Smiljan Radic’s 2014 Serpentine Pavilion. These beautiful photographs inspired The [204] Design Collective to dedicate today’s journal to Pavilions in Architecture. What are they, who are the people that design them, and why are they so important to the public and architecture as a discipline?

Smiljan Radic is a prominent Chilean architect whose pavilion design is the 14th structure to be built on the grounds of the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, London. His pavilion design is described as, “a semi-translucent, cylindrical structure that resembles a shell and rests on large quarry stones. Appearing as if they had always been part of the landscape, these stones are used as supports, giving the pavilion both a physical weight and an outer structure characterized by lightness and fragility” [1]. In an interview with The Guardian, Radic describes his intentions, stating, “I wanted to make it look like it came from the hands of a giant. In the tradition of the English garden folly, it should be something that surprises the public and draws their attention, providing a spatial experience that you don’t get everyday” [2]. His pavilion follows in the tradition of English and French gardens, dating back to the late 16th century where “the folly” was figured prominently.

A folly, also known as an ‘eyecatcher’, in architecture is traditionally defined as, “a non-functional building intended to enhance a natural landscape. The folly became a trend in Landscape Design particularly during the Romantic period in England (late 18th, early 19th century)” [3], and was commonly designed as Classical temples, heavily influenced by Roman Architecture.

This conceptual framework of the folly, outlined by Radic, is often found in the design and conception of architectural pavilions. A vast majority of pavilions have their foundations rooted in nature, gardens and landscape design. Pavilions in architecture are defined as, “temporary structures used in gardens and pleasure grounds. The basic type of pavilion is a large, light, airy garden room with a high-peaked roof resembling a canopy. It was originally erected, like the modern canvas marquee, for special occasions such as fetes, garden banquets, and balls, but it became more permanent, and by the late 17th century, the word was used for any garden building designed for use on special occasions” [4].

Pavilions have become extremely popular in the world of architecture and many of the designs appear to have taken the historical principals of the folly, and applied it to contemporary architectural practice. In reflecting on examples of esteemed pavilions over the past few years, it can be argued that ‘the pavilion’, as a building type, occupies a grey area in the design world, where it is both the product of architectural and landscape architecture practice. It is this hybrid state/context specific design that marries design and functionality to everyday life.

Pavilions are built to be both aesthetically pleasing and functional. It is for this reason that programming is often introduced to these structures in an effort to promote social interaction and community building. The Serpentine Pavilion in London becomes an important model when illustrating the success and importance of this kind of architecture, and its relationship to the park directly contributes to its enduring success.

The [204] Design Collective was fortunate enough to experience, first hand, three out of four pavilions constructed in the past four years.

 [The Selfish Giant]  by Smiljan Radic, named after Oscar Wilde’s short story of the same name.

[The Selfish Giant]

by Smiljan Radic, named after Oscar Wilde’s short story of the same name.

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 [The Cloud]  In 2013, the Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto designed a Serpentine Pavilion. Fujimoto sought to create an ‘architectural landscape’ where people could interact with both, the structure and its surroundings. While the rigid geometry of the structure contrasts with the surrounding greenery, it creates an environment that harmoniously blends nature with human intervention. [5]  "It is a really fundamental question how architecture is different from nature, or how architecture could be part of nature, or how they could be merged... what are the boundaries between nature and artificial things". [6] - Sou Fujimoto

[The Cloud]

In 2013, the Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto designed a Serpentine Pavilion. Fujimoto sought to create an ‘architectural landscape’ where people could interact with both, the structure and its surroundings. While the rigid geometry of the structure contrasts with the surrounding greenery, it creates an environment that harmoniously blends nature with human intervention. [5]

"It is a really fundamental question how architecture is different from nature, or how architecture could be part of nature, or how they could be merged... what are the boundaries between nature and artificial things". [6] - Sou Fujimoto

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 [A Garden Within a Garden]  In 2011 the Swiss architect and 2009 Pritzker Prize winner, Peter Zumthor, designed the Serpentine Pavilion. The Pritzker prize in Architecture is equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize in journalism and literature - it is one of the highest recognitions an architect can receive. The prize honours a living architect whose work has significantly contributed to humanity and the built environment through art and architecture. Peter Zumthor’s concept for the pavilion was derived from the term ‘hortus conclusus’, meaning a contemplative room, or a garden within a garden. [7]  "The hortus conclusus that I dream of is enclosed all around and open to the sky. Every time I imagine a garden in an architectural setting, it turns into a magical place. I think of gardens that I have seen, that I believe I have seen, that I long to see, surrounded by simple walls, columns, arcades or the façades of buildings - sheltered places of great intimacy where I want to stay for a long time". [8] - Peter Zumthor

[A Garden Within a Garden]

In 2011 the Swiss architect and 2009 Pritzker Prize winner, Peter Zumthor, designed the Serpentine Pavilion. The Pritzker prize in Architecture is equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize in journalism and literature - it is one of the highest recognitions an architect can receive. The prize honours a living architect whose work has significantly contributed to humanity and the built environment through art and architecture. Peter Zumthor’s concept for the pavilion was derived from the term ‘hortus conclusus’, meaning a contemplative room, or a garden within a garden. [7]

"The hortus conclusus that I dream of is enclosed all around and open to the sky. Every time I imagine a garden in an architectural setting, it turns into a magical place. I think of gardens that I have seen, that I believe I have seen, that I long to see, surrounded by simple walls, columns, arcades or the façades of buildings - sheltered places of great intimacy where I want to stay for a long time". [8] - Peter Zumthor

 [The Seed]  Another example of a pavilion designed within the same vein, is English architect Thomas Heatherwick’s UK pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai. This project illustrates the architect’s fondness for embracing civic and national identity in his work. This structure is meant to exhibit at least 25% of the world's horticultural species by 2020. At the Expo, it held 250,000 plant seeds in 60,000 acrylic rods. Deviating from the architectural trend of form making, Heatherwick chose to concentrate his exploration on texture. [9]  “It also seemed that if you magnified the texture of a building enough, the texture would actually become its form. We were excited by the idea of making the outside of the building so indefinite that you cannot draw a line between building and sky because they merge into each other. This notion of texture gave us a way to relate to the theme of nature and cities; our pavilion could be a cathedral to seeds, which are immensely significant for the ecology of the planet and fundamental to human nutrition and medicine”. [10] - Thomas Heatherwick  Unfortunately, The Collective has not made its way to Shanghai to see this project. But we were fortunate enough to visit Heatherwick’s model in Tate Modern, London. To see more images of this project and to read more about it, Dezeen’s feature on the project is quite beautiful. [11]

[The Seed]

Another example of a pavilion designed within the same vein, is English architect Thomas Heatherwick’s UK pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai. This project illustrates the architect’s fondness for embracing civic and national identity in his work. This structure is meant to exhibit at least 25% of the world's horticultural species by 2020. At the Expo, it held 250,000 plant seeds in 60,000 acrylic rods. Deviating from the architectural trend of form making, Heatherwick chose to concentrate his exploration on texture. [9]

“It also seemed that if you magnified the texture of a building enough, the texture would actually become its form. We were excited by the idea of making the outside of the building so indefinite that you cannot draw a line between building and sky because they merge into each other. This notion of texture gave us a way to relate to the theme of nature and cities; our pavilion could be a cathedral to seeds, which are immensely significant for the ecology of the planet and fundamental to human nutrition and medicine”. [10] - Thomas Heatherwick

Unfortunately, The Collective has not made its way to Shanghai to see this project. But we were fortunate enough to visit Heatherwick’s model in Tate Modern, London. To see more images of this project and to read more about it, Dezeen’s feature on the project is quite beautiful. [11]

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 [Une Architecture – The Mobile Art Pavilion]  Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-British architect and first female recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004, designed a pavilion in 2008 in partnership with Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel. The pavilion was later donated to l’Institue Du Monde Arab in Paris. [12]  It can be argued that this particular pavilion does not engage landscape architecture as sensitively as the previous examples have. While some pavilions design to expose what is already on site, Zaha Hadid’s designs look to what can be added.  The architect insists that the conceptualization of this pavilion has its roots grounded in nature and its properties. While this may be true, in embracing modernity and technological advances, the pavilion stands out from the grounds on which it is situated. Where the project is successful, is in its original intention to provide a space for community events and programming.   “The complexity and technological advances in digital imaging software and construction techniques have made the architecture of the Mobile Art Pavilion possible. It is an architectural language of fluidity and nature, driven by new digital design and manufacturing processes, which have enabled us to create the Pavilion’s totally organic forms – instead of the serial order of repetition that marks the architecture of the industrial 20th Century”. [13]  - Zaha Hadid

[Une Architecture – The Mobile Art Pavilion]

Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-British architect and first female recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004, designed a pavilion in 2008 in partnership with Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel. The pavilion was later donated to l’Institue Du Monde Arab in Paris. [12]

It can be argued that this particular pavilion does not engage landscape architecture as sensitively as the previous examples have. While some pavilions design to expose what is already on site, Zaha Hadid’s designs look to what can be added.

The architect insists that the conceptualization of this pavilion has its roots grounded in nature and its properties. While this may be true, in embracing modernity and technological advances, the pavilion stands out from the grounds on which it is situated. Where the project is successful, is in its original intention to provide a space for community events and programming.

 “The complexity and technological advances in digital imaging software and construction techniques have made the architecture of the Mobile Art Pavilion possible. It is an architectural language of fluidity and nature, driven by new digital design and manufacturing processes, which have enabled us to create the Pavilion’s totally organic forms – instead of the serial order of repetition that marks the architecture of the industrial 20th Century”. [13]

- Zaha Hadid

A disconnect can exist between intention and conception of a project. In comparing the architect’s vision with images and experiences of these pavilions, it becomes clear that some projects are more successful than others in engaging the landscape and engaging the public. Landscape architecture’s designs are notoriously contextually bound. Landscapes are constantly changing: they are transient and evolutionary while architecture is designed to endure. To Smiljan Radic, “that is the joke of the folly – they work with the idea of [being both] permanent and ephemeral”. [14] The contemporary folly or, the pavilion, is engineered to be both architecturally strong but adaptable and engaging like the landscape. The pavilion as a building type is often criticized as, ‘an alien in the landscape’, a foreign body placed in the middle of a park, completely disassociated from its surroundings.

The conceptual fusion of both disciplines, architecture and landscape architecture, is central to the exploration and study of ‘the pavilion’, its influence in architecture and its contribution to the public. When you design with sensitivity to context, the structure feels comfortable and familiar rather than foreign and alien, resulting in an accessible and therefore successful space.

[1] Radic, Smiljan. The Serpentine Pavilion. London, 2014 http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/serpentine-galleries-pavilion-2014-smiljan-radic
[2] Walnwright, Oliver. The Guardian. London, 2014 http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jun/24/serpentine-pavilion-smiljan-radic-architecture
[3] Encyclopedia Britannica.
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/212366/folly
[4] Encyclopedia Brittannica http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/447326/pavilion
[5] Fujimoto, Sou. The Serpentine Pavilion. London, 2013
http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/serpentine-gallery-pavilion-2013-sou-fujimoto
[6] Fujimoto, Sou. The Serpentine Pavilion. London, 2013.
http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/serpentine-gallery-pavilion-2013-sou-fujimoto
[7] Zumthur, Peter. The Serpentine Pavilion. London, 2011.
http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/serpentine-gallery-pavilion-2011-peter-zumthor
[8] Zumthur, Peter. The Serpentine Pavilion. London, 2011.
http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/serpentine-gallery-pavilion-2011-peter-zumthor
[9] Heatherwick, Thomas. Heatherwick Studio. London, 2010.
http://www.heatherwick.com/uk-pavilion/
[10] Heatherwick, Thomas. Heatherwick Studio. London, 2010.
http://www.heatherwick.com/uk-pavilion/
[11] Faris, Marcus. 2010.
http://www.dezeen.com/2010/04/04/uk-pavilion-at-shanghai-expo-2010-by-thomas-heatherwick-more-images/
[12] Frearson, Amy. 2011.
http://www.dezeen.com/2011/05/05/une-architecture-at-the-mobile-art-pavilion-byzaha-hadid/
[13] Hadid, Zaha. 2011.
http://www.dezeen.com/2011/05/05/une-architecture-at-the-mobile-art-pavilion-byzaha-hadid/
[14] Hobson, Ben. 2014.
http://www.dezeen.com/2014/06/24/movie-smiljan-radic-serpentine-gallery-pavilion-2014-model-hand-made-by-giant/