diamond geezer

 Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pavilions are ten a penny these days. You can't move in London without stumbling across a pop-up structure, designed by architects, occupying some public space somewhere. These temporary creations give students and consultancies the opportunity to show off their artistic tendencies, and also to spout meaningful words about the inherent meaning of their abstract concept. Plastic poles, wooden struts, steel bars and polymer panels, all interlinked in dynamic ways to create a cognitive space intersecting reality. Or something.

Next month a pavilion will be popping up at the Serpentine Gallery, as is the tradition each June. Sou Fujimoto's signature building will "inhabit a space between nature and artificiality". We're promised that "a new form of environment will be created, where the natural and the man-made merge; not solely architectural nor solely natural, but a unique meeting of the two." Not only that, but "it will form a semi-transparent, irregular ring, simultaneously protecting visitors from the elements while allowing them to remain part of the landscape." Your typical average pop-up pavilion, then.

And now there's one in Bethnal Green.

This is the Summer Showcase Pavilion, the end result of a competition organised by ArchTriumph. They invited international teams "to design a freestanding transportable temporary contemporary showcase Pavilion that reflects peace and its unique location." That location is the Museum Gardens in Bethnal Green, a peaceful square round the back of the Museum of Childhood, and a lovely place to rest on a sunny day. Designs had to "encourage hope and highlight the need for ecological and sustainable architecture and design principles", as you do. In addition the pavilion "should provide an inspirational space" where visitors can "admire, embrace diversity and engage with each other to share discussions about design, importance and benefits of peace and co-existence or other stories in a peaceful setting." And, to add to the challenge, this year's pavilion would be "dedicated to the newly created South and North nations of Sudan as we encourage a peaceful future through architecture". Looking at the final design, I'm sure you can agreed they succeeded in meeting this challenging brief.

The winning team were an interdisciplinary trio from France, that's Gregoire, Irina and AdriĆ . They created this "visually and aesthetically engaging" pavilion, capable of providing "an ideal contemporary space offering a sense of tranquility and beauty". Their self-supporting structure has been created from lightweight PVC membrane and embraces the geometric conception of double curved surfaces. It's not immediately obvious from ground level but the pavilion has perfect symmetry, a bit like a twisted cloverleaf. And we're told that "the geometry of the pavilion blurs our notions of inside and outside", which is almost exactly what Sou Fujimoto said. This must mean that Peripheral Blurring is this year's fundamental design message in the world of pavilions, so do bear that in mind if you're thinking of designing your own.

I stumbled upon the Peace Pavilion completely by accident. I didn't know the Mayor of Tower Hamlets had been down on Thursday to officially open it. I just wandered through from the station and there it was, an inflatable membrane plonked in the middle of the lawn. Various local teenagers were staring at it, and taking smartphone photos of each other in front of it, because it was new and strange. A few mums had gathered, it being the middle of the afternoon, and some led their toddlers into the middle for a stare. I don't think they discussed design, importance and the benefits of peace and co-existence, but you never can tell.

There are a few metal chairs scattered inside the pavilion to encourage contemplation. I've got almost exactly the same chairs at home, so I'm quite excited to discover that they're art, and not just cheap car boot knock-off dumped here by my landlord. There's also a lone security guard on patrol, in case anyone turns up and tries to vandalise the pavilion, or daub it with graffiti, or pierce the membrane, or even try to run away with it. Don't do that, because that's not in the spirit of international peace and sustainability. I'm not saying you should rush down to Bethnal Green to see the Peace Pavilion, because it's only a twisty geometric inflatable with added seating. But watch out for pavilions in your part of town too, because you never know where one will pop up next.

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