The ‘Pavilion’ is an ode to memories. A form recollected from the distant past, born out of the architect’s experience of spaces, colors, textures, emotions and sensations. Like a dream that seeps into the mind as you wander into deep sleep, these fragmented images, retrieved from the mind’s repository, coalesce to form the pavilion.
The design organically evolves from the context of the site, drawing parallels to the surrounding fabric of Fort Kochi, with its adaptively reused structures. The space attempts to create a unique ambience of cultural rootedness through motifs which draws associations from our history and context – the transition of spaces, gathering courts, celebrations, tactile sensations, traditional constructs and typologies. A structure composed of moments lost, foraged from the past so that one can experience them again. It is an exploration into recycling and reusing materials as a way of reducing the impact on the environment - a space which came from nothing, existing for the specific functional time period and then going back into nothingness.
How did you approach the idea/design of the Pavilion knowing it is intended to be both an artwork in itself and a venue for a number of events?
Our mind is a vast repository of memories – that of our accumulated wealth of experiences and of knowledge. This, when referenced in the backdrop of the cultural context establishes an individual’s perception of a physical space, giving it meaning. The design of the Pavilion tries to accentuate our recollections and experiences of spaces, colors, textures, emotions and sensations and in the process, rekindle our subconscious nostalgic references.
For instance, one enters the Pavilion by moving through the transitionary space of the ‘Muttam’, a unique construct of traditional Kerala homes, down into the womb of the earth and enters into the powerful interior space which indirectly references a traditional ‘Kalari’. The elements in the interiors further add to this sense of nostalgia by alluding to ideas from our cultural history, which are gradually being lost in the progress of time. Thus, the art is not separate from the architecture, but is integrally intertwined in the design of the Pavilion.
Could you tell us about the different features of the Pavilion? From the conceptual drawings and site visits, it looks to have an amphitheater feel...
Yes, the Pavilion is designed to accommodate around 300 people and has got a series of levels which rise up towards the rear. The rakings are carefully designed to provide unobstructed lines of sight to the users. These levels evolve into a gallery-like seating towards the rear, which is very commonly found in the rural festivals & sporting venues of Kerala. There is a raised stage in the front end which can accommodate a variety of functions, right from performances to digital screenings. The space can be used in a variety of ways and has the flexibility to accommodate formal events as well as informal gatherings.
Air-conditioned indoor spaces can feel 'cut off' from the outside environment. How do you propose to tackle this with the Pavilion especially since it is expected to bring a feel of 'rooted-ness' to Fort Kochi?
We had a lot of conversations on whether to air-condition the space, or to keep it open. In the end it was a collective decision to go for air-conditioning to ensure more comfort for the gathering inside. The design also has the option of opening out the entire rear side of the stage onto the landscaped exterior seating, seamlessly blending the inside and outside. Thus, for certain events, the space can be opened up and can flow into the exterior. The overall design of the Pavilion as well as the interiors references a lot of the regional elements to create the contextual rootedness. These are deliberately kept subtle to create a design language which draws inspiration from the adaptively reused structures of Fort Kochi. So even if one is inside the Pavilion, there is a subconscious connect with the overall context.
Could you tell us what kinds of materials have been used in the construction? Particularly the recycled materials?
The design is an exploration into recycling and reusing materials as a way of reducing the impact on the environment. Thus, there are a lot of tactile elements which coalesce to form the design. The external wall of the structure is a ‘debris’ wall, wherein we have used a lot of discarded materials like broken brickbats, stones etc, in combination with the earth dug from the site itself. The trusses supporting the roof are again done using reclaimed wood. Old sarees, collected from the local people, forms an interesting installation, intertwined with the reclaimed wooden trusses, creating an ever changing pattern of light & colours. The rakings on the floor are finished in a combination of lime and sand, creating a very rustic feel. The temporary wooden galleries on the rear are made up of areca-nut planks.
The structure is designed as a space which evolved from the site, existing for a specific period to function as a contextually relevant space to assemble, deliberate and celebrate and then, after the Biennale, to dissolve back into nature again.