What Makes a Pavilion Successful?

by Tyler Norton

What makes a pavilion successful? This is a question that has been on my mind as we work on our projects in studio. In class, we studied pavilions as a form of temporary architecture. However, my group members and I are including a permanent pavilion at the top of one of our structures. I feel that since our pavilion will be permanent, there is more pressure for it to be well designed. Therefore, I wanted to utilize this post to study a few good examples of successful pavilions.

            To me, a pavilion represents a gathering space above all else. Whether it hosts seating, an event, a restaurant, a gallery, or in the case of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, no function at all, a pavilion will always provide a space for people to congregate. If for nothing else, these three pavilions are successful because they shape space in a way that is interesting, inviting, and innovative. This attracts people to gather there to appreciate the space.

            The 2009 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by SANAA was meant to amplify the way people experience things, be it through sound, sight, or feeling. The concept and form was based on summer and nature since it was to host the annual summer party. SANAA strove for it to be a light and airy structure and I think that it was very successful because it accomplished the preset goal and it blended the boundaries between outdoors and in, which is another prominent theme in SANAA’s designs. Another project that focused on summer was Zaha Hadid’s 2007 Serpentine Pavilion, which was only there for a week to host the summer party. The main goal of the pavilion was to provide shelter to the party. It serves to shelter the pavilion from sun during the day and at night it provides light from lights that are underneath and travel up the veins of the fabric. Air, light, and fabric are all able to travel through the three structures and the light that travels through is meant to “highlight the geometric intricacy of the pavilion” with it’s light play. I think that this pavilion was very successful because it provided an interesting gathering place, which was its function. The final pavilion that I’d like to talk about it is Mies Van Der Rohe’s German Pavilion. The concept behind this project was to “give voice to the spirit of a new era” in Germany. In other words it was intended to be a self-portrait of the new Germany. It’s a very simple form with extravagant materials create an open plan that serve to suggest a “floating form.” I find this very successful because its openness perfectly symbolizes what was intended.

            All in all, I have come to the conclusion that each pavilion is different. These are all successful but in different ways.  Each one sets out to accomplish something different and each one does. As long as a pavilion accomplished the pre defined goal it can be very successful and interesting. 

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