Sunday, 24 July 2016

Construction time again.

I try, and more often than not manage, to make an annual pilgrimage to Kensington Gardens each summer to see their pavilion. The idea behind it is that an architect, or architectural firm, who are yet to have a permanent building commissioned in the UK get to construct a temporary edifice for the perusal of visitors whilst at the same time putting theirselves in the shop window.

Some of my favourites have been those designed by Jean Nouvel, Olafur Eliasson (he of the Tate Modern's notorious weather project) who worked with Kjetil Thorsen, and Herzog & De Meuron. Even big names like Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, and Oscar Niemeyer have had a go. Some are better than others but I'm yet to witness an absolute stinker.

This year it's the turn of the Bjarke Ingels Group. New to me they formed in Copenhagen in 2005 and currently employ over 300 architects, designers, and 'thinkers'. Not quite sure who doesn't think but there you go. Ingels and his group have mainly worked in Denmark designing incinerator power plants, Lego museums etc;

On reaching the pavilion I was surprised by both the size and the brickwallyness of it. It's not picture postcard pretty yet it is impressive. It'd drawn a decent crowd on a sunny day.

Inside the twists and curves were far more satisfying and you could even park yourself down for an over priced lentil sandwich, a cup of coffee, or a beer. Being a sad old loner I declined. The man who was clearing up the rubbish asked me to help him. I can't work out if he was just too lazy to do his own job or was taking pity on me.

A bonus this year is the addition of a selection of summer houses. By less renowned but interesting architects. Many of them took their inspiration from Queen Caroline's Temple nearby. Built by William Kent (1685-1748) who used sun path analysis techniques to optimise its potential for viewing sunrises.

Barkow Leibinger (US/Germany) was actually inspired by another Kent pavilion. Now defunct. His undulating structural bands of wood were tempting people to rub their hands along the exterior walls.

The Nigerian architect, creative researcher, and 'urbanist' Kunle Adeyemi (NLE) simply inverted the form of Queen Caroline's Temple. He used soft spongy blocks that were delightful to relax upon whilst watching tourists frolic in the long grass.

Homegrown Asif Khan's construction looked a little cage like but with it's gravelly floor and places to sit was actually proving very popular.

The Hungarian born Frenchman Yona Friedman's modular structure was the least inviting but perhaps the most curious gazebo. Composed of cubes that can be assembled and disassembled in various different ways and decorated with panels displaying replicas of Friedman's own water colours.

It had been an interesting afternoon in the park but I was in for one last twist. Behind Queen Caroline's Temple itself I spotted two men having a swordfight. Fencing basically. I'd not really seen men waving swords around in a park before and it was a spectacle as curious as some of the wackier architecture. It was a little dinky cherry on the cake of culture I'd filled myself up with. Burp.

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