by Jincy IypeSep 01, 2023
A departure from the nomadic way of living, as practised during the inchoative ages, led to the development of monumental and enduring relics of architecture. As these edifices sprouted in numbers, settlements grew and civilisations emerged, leading to a decline in the concept and creation of portable shelters, in favour of caravanserais, inns, hostels and hotels. Innovations in this realm, hence, waned, with archaic tipis, Mongol yurts and the black tents of the Bedouins giving way to modern synthetic tents. While the former were dwellings designed for travellers and nomads as protective shields against harsh weather, the latter fulfilled the barest modicum of a shelter. With the swift transformation of barren lands into districts that now host all imaginable amenities, the necessity for mobile architectural innovations is at a low point. More recently, we also witnessed a decline in the number of carts, kiosks and stalls selling our favourite ice cream flavours and snacks, and fruits and vegetables for daily use, as well. One may deduce this to be an effect of the popularisation of e-commerce applications.
At a time when technology-led services have reduced the demand for the creation of easily transportable architectural entities, it is only perhaps a desire to reinvigorate public spaces with interesting and displaceable elements, that can drive the creation of such structures. One such design that recently caught my eye is the Black Pavilion by Fabian A Wagner. Subtle in its demeanour, the structure appears ready to flaunt its latent features in tandem with the requirement at hand. Designed by German architect Fabian Alexander Wagner of Buero Wagner, the Black Pavilion is a versatile, polyfunctional, flexible, site-independent and rebuildable wooden structure that can serve the purpose of an exhibition space, kiosk, bar, meditation area, performance station, and more.
Born in Munich, Bavaria, in Germany, Wagner comes from a family of civil engineers. While this gave him a glimpse into the architecture sector early on, Wagner was more interested in the creative aspects pertaining to the discipline. Hence, after pursuing higher education from Technical University of Munich and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he worked at MVRDV, Baumschlager Eberle, OMA and RAD. Later, in 2013, he founded Buero Wagner. He believes that good architecture must be timeless, a thought that is reflected in his straightforward design of the Black Pavilion.
Monochromatic, geometric and customisable, the wooden architecture bears the potential to fit well in an array of locales. Its subtle and unpatterned hue ensures that the activities platformed at this station remain the highlight in the area. On the other hand, the sharpness of the pavilion design stands out and attracts attention when placed against organically structured accoutrements from the natural or man-made world. Whether the structure stands solitary or with the object of serving a function, it manages to command a presence worthy of attention.
The pavilion is designed to be used as flexibly as possible. It can be configured to host both open and closed exhibitions. The structure can either be spread out wider to hold several objects during an exhibition or closed off, with small circular openings in the slanted roof illuminating the horizontally placed wooden pedestals placed within. Alternatively, when the slanted roof of the pavilion is folded outward, it can be used as a table for dinners, a bar counter for casual events, or as a platform for cooking. Height adjustments of the horizontal wooden slats can lead to the structure being used as habitable furniture. On the other hand, the expansion of the pavilion, by moving the two parts of the roof afar, such that its two slanted sides separate to leave clearance for the positioning of a performance stage or seating space, can help configure a spot for slated live events such as concerts, talks, round-table discussions, or more intimate book readings.
The structure is made of two elements—structural solid wood and a maritime pine plywood, with screws and ropes, as well as hinges for the roof flaps serving as connectors between the individual components. In order to obtain a uniform surface and to weather-proof it, Wagner glazed its body in a black coat. In placing two slanted rafters against each other, end-to-end, Wagner alludes to the archaic and simplistic tents. The symmetrical pavilion, weighing 250 kilograms on either side, is supported by the placement of the rafters against the purlins to form a triangular supporting structure, further braced by the roof panels. The circular cut-outs on the roof serve as a means for the light to flow in and to provision the view of the outdoors. “In conjunction with the dark tonality, a negative space is created inside, through which focused and, due to the lack of reflections in the interior, colour-intensified views are made possible,” Wagner mentions.
The pavilion was built in Villa Massimo, a German cultural institution in Rome, by Fabian A. Wagner, Edwin Hoffmann, Louise Daussy, David Lachermeier, Julia Miksch, and Maxi Wagner, in 2022. It was used for various exhibitions such as Studi Aperti at Villa Massimo, showcases at Open House Roma, as well as The European Pavilion, a three-day artistic event in Rome, Italy. Subsequently, the structure was moved to the Villa Massimo park this year, where it serves the purpose of a meeting and interaction spot. "Relocated in the park, the Black Pavilion thus limits, focuses and intensifies the outdoor space, inviting a conscious perception and a reflection on our hedonistic approach to nature,” the architect shares.
The structure will also be a part of a music festival at the Gasometer in Rome as well as the Villa Massimo Art Festival in Stuttgart, next summer. When asked about the role of the pavilion at Stuttgart next year, Wagner shares, “The pavilion will be used to bring current topics into the urban space. Since I myself have recently taken up a professorship, I would like to design a new structure with my students from the individual parts of the pavilion and build it together in Stuttgart as a design-build project. This is to be done under the aspects of recyclability and reusability in order to transfer these topics into teaching in a practical way.”
After its usage in public events, Wagner intends for the structure to be set up as a bird-watching station at the Ammersee lake (near which he spent his childhood years). In designing and building a customisable structure that is also easily portable, Wagner manages to serve various purposes successively. One only needs to imagine the amount of waste incurred from building, destroying and rebuilding such kiosks and performance stands repeatedly, in order to recognise and appreciate the sheer beauty and usability of a design that manages to metamorphose, across spaces, and for different functions. Enunciating upon this thought, the architect shares, "I think it is possible to scale this idea and build larger structures out of it. We always want our buildings to be flexible, so they can adapt to different situations, purposes and users. At the same time, we can realise different ideas in one building, make it flexible, hence, ensuring that the buildings have a long life cycle.”
Name: Black Pavilion
Location: Currently in Rome, Italy; to be relocated to Stuttgart, Germany in 2024
Area: 14 sqm
Architect: Fabian A. Wagner (Buero Wagner)
Team of builders: Fabian A. Wagner, Edwin Hoffmann, Louise Daussy, David Lachermeier, Julia Miksch, Maxi Wagner
Structural engineer: Maxi Wagner
Model: David Lachermeier
With Support from: Accademia Tedesca Roma Villa Massimo, Adler-Werk Lackfabrik Johann Berghofer GmbH & Co KG, Peter Schlecht GmbH