by Zohra KhanSep 20, 2022
"And so it is by way of a machine that we can then attempt to prefigure both, some kind of future and its denial at the same time,” reads the guiding theory behind Obra architects's envisioned climate-correcting machine. Winning the Architecture MasterPrize 2022 Best of Best in Exhibition as well as in the Public Space category, the Perpetual Spring pavilion is the New York and Seoul-based architects' attempt at demonstrating design as a chance to focus public attention on issues—of the city, climate change, the environment, and the future.
'Perpetual Spring' as the name suggests, draws upon the varied symbolisms of renewal associated with spring—a new beginning, a new life, a season of starting anew and afresh. Building on these diverse meanings of the season, spring also elucidates political and poetic expression in human history, reflected in the many liberation movements that occurred in spring. Adding on the significance of the season on humanity, thereby referenced in the name of the pavilion, Pablo Castro, FAIA, co-founder of Obra Architects shares, “That a revolution prefers fair weather is an assertion that can be historically attested, first with the Spring of Nations, the Prague Spring and, more recently, the Arab Spring. Perpetual Spring is an installation that aspires to artificially perpetuate, into fall and winter, climatic conditions propitious to progressive social change, artificially creating a climate for human interaction, community organisation, and the debate of ideas: clear skies, pleasant temperatures, and abundant flowering greenery. Perpetual Spring is a work of optimism, positing that the current weather crisis affecting the planet does not have to inevitably end in catastrophic global disaster if we organise to take rational care of the planet, our shared homes."
As a platform for awareness and an invitation for action, the project commissioned by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul in South Korea aimed to act as a public space highlighting the issues facing urban life in the present world and those of the future. The pavilion was a featured work in the centennial exhibition Architecture and Heritage: Unearthing Future and was commissioned with two main objectives: to awaken dormant public consciousness to the potential of social activism and political agency, and to explore the possibilities of an alternative technology that by virtue of collective ownership becomes an agent for the resolution of problems affecting us all.
With the aim of bringing attention to the concerns of the climate crisis, the pavilion design acted as a one-of-a-kind prototype, showcasing the functional aspects of urban community gathering. Proposed as a 'climate-correcting machine,' the building with an exhibition space appears to be an artificially-controlled greenhouse machine. The metallic mass of the pavilion was broken down by introducing 150 crystalline luminous 'eyes'-like polycarbonate plastic semi-sphere protruding from the built surface. Creating an ‘ideal’ climate inside the pavilion, the architects set up visitors to an artificially set comfort zone, where audio-visual displays inform the visitors about real-time climatic and environmental data—on a global scale. Along with the permanent spring weather-like conditions, the pavilion also had a small garden in it. In order to maintain the conditions of the artificial climate-correcting machine, the architects employed a variable climate control system including photovoltaic panels, thereby powering automatic exhaust fans, aluminium foil curtains, and a phase-change radiant floor-heating system.
"If the prevalent economic system has provided storage of the efforts of the many for the benefit of the few, the machine is both empowerment and substitute of human agency towards the transformation of the world into a home. It should come as no surprise then, that the anticipated fundamental presence in the coming city of impersonalised artificial intelligence is still that of the machine. The unfulfilled promise of modernity in general, and of the Modern Movement in architecture in particular, is that of finally gaining control over the time of our lives, freedom from labour and the possibility to pursue our self-realisation and finally attempt to become who we really should have been. The machine is the preeminent tool in that struggle. Perpetual Spring is then intended as both concrete and abstract machine, as a place where the very real parameters of a weather gone awry can be rudimentarily tweaked both as modest example and proposed symbolic ritual, and as the repository collective efforts towards a meta-technology: if the rightful ownership of people’s machines has been confiscated in obsessive fixation with individualism—the antidote for fear—new machines shall be invented through a popular effort towards an alternative technology,” state Obra Architects, about the project.
Though the pavilion events were prematurely suspended in February due to COVID, due to popular appeal, it remained open till May 2020 and was disassembled then. The architecture pavilion is now scheduled for further development and reopening, as a public space venue, in a model urban agritech community, currently in development in Jincheon, approximately two hours outside of Seoul.