The Folly about Pavilions

Having spearheaded the FIGMENT/ENYA/SEAoNY City of Dreams Pavilion competition for the last couple of years, I have been pleased to see similar competitions sprout and gain momentum. Last week, the Architectural League hosted a panel on pavilions and follies (in conjunction with its Folly competition to build a pavilion at Socrates Sculpture Park during the summer of 2013). Throughout the discussion, it became clear to me that pavilion architecture is an important contributor to the future of the profession… at least at this moment in time.

Pavilions give architects opportunities to test new materials and ideas. Firms can experiment with color, weather, and movement. And because pavilions are often ephemeral, architects can be bolder and more exploratory than they might if designing and building a large, permanent structure. In doing this, firms can push their designs to the point of failure and have enough time to figure out what went wrong and fix it. For example, Michael Loverich of Bittertang discussed the daily process of going out to Governors Island last summer to assess and repair the unexpected damage (both natural and manmade) placed upon Burble Bup from the day before.

Because of the design/build aspect of pavilions, firms are given the opportunity to not only show their design ability, but also to prove that they can build them, said SO-IL’s Florian Idenburg, Intl. Assoc. AIA. This is important for young firms that do not necessarily have many built projects.

Galia Solomonoff, AIA, principal of Solomonoff Architecture Studio and moderator of the panel, made an analogy between architects such as Rem Koolhaas and Aldo Rossi, and younger firms like SO-IL and Bittertang. She said that while the older generation used the city and urban planning to push the boundaries of architecture and expand its definition, now younger architects are using temporary structures to redefine the profession. In addition to the City of Dreams Pavilion, Folly, the MoMA/P.S.1 Young Architects Program, SHIFTBoston, the Land Generator Initiative, Art Basel, and biennials and expos in Venice and Shanghai, for example, the list of opportunities for young firms is growing.