Recently the National Gallery of Victoria announced their shortlist for the 2017 Architecture Commission at a special event at RMIT’s Design Hub. Five out of 79 projects were selected to be developed further prior to the final judging in July. Among them is Cottee Parker Architects, Cumulus Studio and Other Architects who have been shortlisted for the second year in a row. This achievement is due recognition of their deep thinking approach towards their architecture.
With stage 1 completed Atelier Red+Black can now present their entry to the public.
The Endless Summer Pavilion
In the Trump era of nationalism, populism and xenophobia, architecture more than ever needs to advocate for social justice. The Endless Summer Pavilion takes the opportunity, free from the pragmatic concerns of private patronage, to ask very hard questions about who we are as Australians and what are our values. At its core, it transports those experiencing it to an internalised beach-like setting. It is here where children can play with innocence in the sand, whilst the adult experience ponders the disturbing reality of an endless summer.
“Everything is art, everything is politics” Ai Weiwei
Summer is deeply connected with Australia’s sense of national identity. “I love a sunburnt country” wrote Dorothea Mackeller in her iconic poem My Country. Australians trade on this narrative, encouraging tourists flock to Australia to soak in the laid-back beach lifestyle. Famously in 2006 we asked the world ‘where the bloody hell are you’.
As one enters the sculpture garden The Pavilion appears partially camouflaged. The landscape appears to lift upwards as raised seating whilst the mirrored verandah pulls the reflected sky downwards. In between these is a tearing of the fabric to invite the visitor to investigate the space beyond.
An angled timber boardwalk offers an invitation for closer engagement with the pavilion. As one progresses down along the boardwalk, the angular mirrored exterior slices open to reveal the entry. On one side a sky blue wall with the words ‘endless summer’ on the other an opening to the garden defined only by chain wire mesh.
Once within the pavilion the understanding of the space diverges into two streams. For children the sand and the water is an open invitation to play. Protected by their innocence, they understand the endless summer as a fun day at the beach. For adults, on a different plane of experience, the beach is tainted with a single poignant photograph of an offshore detention centre.
The double meaning of the Endless Summer, as lived daily by refugees, is revealed releasing a stream of thoughts and emotions in the viewer. Averting their gaze, the viewers look for a visual escape. The view out is through the wire mesh fencing, out to the garden where people are seated with their backs to the pavilion. Even Henry Moore’s sculpture appears to turn her back on the issue.
Upon exiting, the mirrored façade gains further meaning. The viewer is left looking at their reflection. The only interruption is the Black horizontal etchings in the mirrored surface, a subtle reference to the redactions of the Nauru Files published by The Guardian. The modular raised landscape provides platforms for people to sit and observe the surrounding garden, facilitating life to imitate the art of Henry Moore’s Draped Seated Woman.
If architecture is to have any relevance in the 21st century then it must engage with difficult issues in difficult times. It cannot merely be the plaything of the rich and powerful. At it’s heart, architecture needs to be for the public good. It should inspire us and enrich us. It should connect us to our humanity, dragging us there, kicking and screaming if need be.
Architect Mies Van Der Rohe went in search for god in the details.
Poet William Blake went looking elsewhere :
‘Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell,
There God is dwelling too.’
For Mr Eaton Fish and everyone else.
Architecture is for everyone
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