The Reunion public house opened its doors on June 23rd and closed on September the 2nd Unfortunately I managed to get there only a couple of days before its closing date otherwise I believe I would have been a regular visitor. It was constructed on Union Street by the Southwark railway arches at the usual space where Exyzt (the architects’ and artists’ collective that designed and built it) have been experimenting with different themes of pop-up public spaces since 2008. (see more of them here)
This year’s space was a public square which opened itself to the street through a series of doorways that implied a boundary but simultaneously ‘invited’ the street in. The doors when opened laid on the floor to form a deck, an in-between surface that one stepped on in order to access the pebbled courtyard. Tables and chaises-longues where there for the visitors to relax at, while children were playing by the shallow pool. The room-capsules for overnight guests were placed by the arches, on a deck that was covered by canopies. Apparently most of the builders/designers stayed there throughout the summer. Under the arches was also the cinema and concert space, the toilets, the bar/kitchen and the dining area. The ‘Reunion’ was inspired by the Beer Act of 1830 according to which any householder could apply for a license to sell and even brew beer from their own front room. Thus beer was served at the bar without a fixed price, but donations were accepted.
Going around the bar and behind the toilets, the visitors came across a beautiful secret garden where the sauna (which was free for everyone) was placed. In the garden was also a large table with benches for people to have a drink or eat. Furniture, rooms, the sauna, everything in the ‘public house’ was built by the collective.
We chatted a bit with one of its founding members Nicolas Henninger who told us that Exyzt are architects and artists from different countries that are interested in experimenting with public spaces. The Reunion was included in the program of this year’s London Festival of Architecture. The land is privately owned but has been used by Exyzt in different projects, a number of times already. A building permission was required and issued for its temporary use but ultimately the collective got together, designed and built it. He also told us that all the wood that was used was going to be recycled when the place closed down.
Apart from the overall arrangement and aesthetics of the space that was beautiful in a simple and effective way, I particularly enjoyed the details: the drawn carpet on the floor in front of the shop, the idea box, the wooden mosaic by the pool, the sculptured wooden howl in the window of one of the toilets. Those additions made evident that the people involved truly enjoyed themselves and left their mark. Since I visited the space towards the end of its existence I had the opportunity to witness a lived-in and enjoyed space.
I have to admit that in the past I have not been too keen on the whole trend of pop-up spaces. I believe that this was the reason why I barely managed to visit the Reunion before it was torn down. To my experience pop-up restaurants, bars, shops etc exist in order to take advantage of the financial opportunity that presents itself within the intense urban environment, where people consume spaces and are constantly searching for new ones to spend their money at. There is loads to be said on this subject of places being absorbed in the capitalist game in order to quench the consumers’ thirst for new experiences. However the Re-union public house did not give me this impression at all. It seemed like an inspired architectural hub where people experimented and enjoyed both building and using it. The local community and visitors that frequented it, seemed to embrace and enjoy it to the fullest and for that reason I believe that the experiment was truly successful.
Read more about the Re-union public house by Exyzt here