The London Festival of Architecture (LFA) is one of the most looked forward to events in the calendar of any design aficionado. Installations, street art, design talks – you will find pops of inspiration throughout the city, and this year was no different with a diverse, challenging and engaging series of over 400 events exploring the theme - ‘boundaries’. From street dance and a séance at John Soane’s country retreat to debates challenging architecture’s hidden boundaries of gender and privilege, the London Festival of Architecture this year had the richest programme ever.
While LFA events take place in every corner of London, the programme this time featured many events focused in four specially-designated festival hubs: the City of London, London Bridge, the Royal Docks and the Heart of London district covering St James’s, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. What caught our eye, however, was the ‘Colour Palace’, unveiled as the second edition of the Dulwich Pavilion at Dulwich Picture Gallery. The outcome of an open design competition organised by the London Festival of Architecture and Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Colour Palace served as a temporary outdoor structure for summer 2019, gracing the lawns outside Sir John Soane’s iconic gallery.
While the LFA celebrated ‘boundaries’ as a theme, the Dulwich Picture Gallery explored ‘innovation’. These two themes converged in the Colour Palace - a riotous architectural fusion that blurred boundaries between cultural traditions, integrating art and architecture. The innovative timber structure was a feat of engineering using just a single sized timber with all the joints on show, revealing the craftsmanship and structural logic.
Pricegore and Yinka Ilori’s Colour Palace is a testament to the universal themes of colour, pattern and celebration. The design finds parallels between African and European cultures to create a building that reflects the diverse cultural experience of south east London. The Pavilion drew on many shared traditions of geometry and pattern in architecture, and the common solution of raising storage buildings on straddle stones. Raised on monumental feet, the lightweight Pavilion is assembled from thousands of individual pieces of hand painted timber. The combination of these elements created layered facades of bold geometric patterns that shift and merge according to viewpoint recalling the fabric markets of Lagos, Nigeria.
Internally, the Pavilion resembles a small theatre-in-the-round, and visitors could climb to a perimeter gantry held within the depth of the slender structure. The squat volume of the Pavilion was informed by the cubic composition of Soane’s Grade II listed Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Another stunning installation was by artist Alan Parkinson. An immersive architectural installation whose spectacular ‘cathedrals of air’ were an otherworldly fusion of light and colour, subtle soundscape and unexpected beauty, dazzling paths and luminous tunnels.
Of course, the LFA wasn’t without its quirks, one of them being the 40 gold angels sitting on swings installed by KHBT (Karsten Huneck/Bernd Truempler) and Ottmar Hörlwatch to watch over commuters near St Paul's Cathedral in London. Aptly titled Lunch Break, it was designed to be a temporary addition outside St Paul's tube station.