June is London Festival of Architecture month. For the architectural enthusiasts there is a vast collection of events, installations, exhibitions and talks available to choose from. I always go into a frenzy at the beginning of the festival, then take a break and finally panic towards the end of the month to catch every exhibition before it ends. The easiest and most enjoyable installations to visit are the numerous pavilions and follies that pop-up in the city, the most famous of all being naturally the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in Kensington Gardens. However there are quite a few structures of a more humble scale to be found in the city. The competitions for those ‘other’ pavilions are not entered by star-architects but mostly by small practices and are open to students as well.
I started my folly-quest with Triumph pavilion which is placed at Museum Gardens in Bethnal Green. The competition is organised by Archtriumph a platform that launches and publishes international architectural competitions. This year’s winner was IPT a small London-based architectural practice that has a straightforward clean aesthetic and judging from its body of work, loves timber.
This year’s theme was “Dream” but unfortunately I could not find out more information about the competition’s brief in ArchTriumph’s website (a revamp of their page is much needed if I may say so). However upon my visit to the site, I found inside the actual structure a plaque that mentions some guidelines from the brief that was given to the contestants:
“This theme invites visitors to dream about a unique space, creative place, achieving an ambition or simply being inspired by a series of thoughts, images and sensations. We hope that it encourages you to dream and realise the vision of what can be”.
The text seemed as ambitious, symbolic and vague as most architectural competition briefs are. Right underneath it though, was the architect’s response and theme interpretation which I found quite interesting and according to which:
“The pavilion aims to provoke discussions about architectural aspirations and creativity through exploring geometries to create inspiring spatial forms. Although there is a prescribed circulation route through the pavilion, thresholds between inside and outside are blurred and participants can weave through the spaces towards the perimeter seats for further reflection. There can be a fine line between a dream and reality, thus the perception of the pavilion constantly shifts from solidity to transparency depending on the vantage point. The pavilion structure creates inspiring and ever-changing shadows according to the movement of the sun.
I could not have come up with a more precise description even if I tried. So I will not try. I have to say though that the impression I got from the other visitors that I encountered was that people were generally pleased and intrigued by it. I saw children chasing each other and truly weaving their play in the structure. I saw someone sit and read a book in its fleeting shade and I also saw a couple sitting on the grass to simply enjoy looking at the pavilion while having a conversation.
This architectural creation except for being a simple but beautiful structure, has actually achieved its goal, which is for people to enjoy and use it. Similar follies like the Serpentine pavilion, receive much more press because their creators are more often than not star-architects. Somehow the fame of those architects is reflected on their projects and make them more of a self-absorbed ode to their own talent and less about those who are supposed to enjoy their building.
I do not know if it is IPT’s ethics as a practice or if the project’s smaller scale (both spatially and as far the publicity it received) renders this work more humane and real. Either way I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch on that beautiful sunny day and that was especially because of the space and atmosphere that this little structure created.
IPT Architects website here
ArchTriumph website here
London Festival or Architecture program here