The Architecture of Olafur Eliasson

The design of this year’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion is a collaboration between artist Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen of Scandinavian architecture firm Snohetta. After looking through the incredibly thorough documentation of the construction process at 0lll, I’m starting to get pretty excited about this thing. Open from August until November, this years pavilion will play host to artists, architects, academics and scientists as they lead a series of public experiments, culminating in “an extraordinary, two-part, 48-hour marathon laboratory event exploring the architecture of the senses.” Life Without Buildings loves exploring the architecture of the senses and will probably get a bit of head start on the pavilion…say, as soon as this post is finished.

photo via 0III

This is by no means Elasson’s first collaboration with an architect. In fact, as a sort-of spatial researcher, architecture is integral to his work. One of my favorite of his collaborations is the 2005 Thyssen-Bornemisza Limited Edition Art Pavilion in Venice, designed by David Adjaye.

david adjaye pavilion

david adjaye alafur eliason

The pavilion was specifically designed to present Eliasson’s piece, Your Black Horizon. The project, as described in David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings:

“In the windowless main space, a horizontal line at eye level serves as the primary light source. Located in a slot in the construction of each wall, the light slowly changes colour every 15 minutes and moves through the spectrum of the Venetian sky as filmed on a single day.”

Eliasson’s piece is complemented by near-total darkness, which has the well-designed side effect of concealing construction details, resulting in a space where one can only orient themselves in relation to the art work.

A view of the interior.

The elegant 3-material palette has been very carefully selected. Black bituminous fiber board cladding reflects the darkness of the interior, framing and sun screen are built from heat-treated timber and the interior is clad is OSB. It’s that simple. And it works.

Adjaye is a poet, there’s no other word for what he does. I think this is architecture at it’s finest. A clear concept, simple design, a thoughtful yet limited palette, and a startling sensitivity to both the site and the art.

All images taken from David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings