Architectural Pavilions: Experiments and Artifacts


Courtesy of the Museum of Craft and Design, San Francisco. Photography by Henrik Kam.

Guest curator Mariah Nielson is no stranger to the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design in the Dogpatch District. Her knowledge of the intimate, two room space has enabled the exhibit to offer a substantial source of insight towards the creative practice of architecture and design studios. Nielson selected studios that offer a cohesive pragmatism and exciting diversity by individualized processes for a global impact.

The history of the architectural pavilion is likely as old as architecture has been a field of study and expertise. With various nuances in characteristic and purpose, the pavilion as explored in “Architectural Pavilions” is a temporary structure important for the planning process yet smaller in scale or footprint to the final construction. The pavilion has the ability to exist as a stand alone structure on the periphery of a larger complex or an object of aesthetic pleasure.  One of the more historically significant pavilions is Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace, a large permanent structure designed for the first World’s Fair of 1851 in London that later burned down. It achieved the goal of allowing the public to envision future possibilities of life through architecture and community design. Artist and designer Buckminster Fuller embraced the concept of the pavilion in the 20th century to design and build permanent structures from pre-fabricated parts in his geodesic domes. Hippie Modernism, a recent exhibition with elements of 1960s and 70s architecture goals of modularity, community and sustainability in design featured Fuller’s work with a review found here.


Courtesy of the Museum of Craft and Design, San Francisco. Photography by Henrik Kam.

The seven designers or firms in “Architectural Pavilions” constitute an intimate survey of multifaceted design process and what a pavilion can be. The selected models are of various materials ranging from paper, wire, and glue to computer aided drawings, video, photography, and full-scale sculptural prototypes in wood and steel. The viewer travels through an all-encompassing physical and conceptual space to gather information. While each group demonstrates a difference in materials and processes, all consider material use in a world of limited resources, more so than would appear in other periods. Finding the most efficient use of material, reclaimed or repurposing in some instances and developing smart materials that adapt to the immediate environment are all options on the table as the designers remain at the forefront of dialogue surrounding climate change and positive human interaction with the environment. In most of the examples, this economy of material and design lends itself to a delicate aesthetics where the boundary between interior and exterior space is eliminated almost entirely.


Courtesy of the Museum of Craft and Design, San Francisco. Photography by Henrik Kam.

About half of the groups work in experimental design labs or as cooperatives with fluctuating teams. The mobility can ensure faster input from a larger network of people in an increasingly digital world. This characteristic also lends itself to the appearance in modularity and community involvement within the design work. Multidisciplinary think tanks that are focusing on a wider range of social impacts by aesthetic design and practical, material use incorporating artists, architects, engineers, ecologists and scientists among other specialists. The role in educating the general public is a bold statement of cooperation and practical solutions to complex socio-political and economic issues that we share worldwide.

Featured Architecture Studios:

Carmody Groarke
DOSU Studio Architecture
Future Cities Lab
IwamotoScott Architecture
Jay Nelson
Materials & Applications (M&A)
Warren Techentin Architecture

San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design

By Jake Weigel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: