A miniature rainforest would probably be one of the last things one would expect to see in the heart of central London, but that is exactly what visitors will encounter when walking past Bedford Square for the next two months.
Commissioned by the Architectural Association School of Architecture and designed by Chile-based Gun Architects, the Rainforest pavilion is one of the very first events of the month-long London Festival of Architecture (which officially runs from the 1 until 30 June) and was inaugurated this weekend, marking an unofficial, early start to the capital's architectural festivities.
Developed by the Chilean-German architecture firm, helmed by founders Jorge Godoy and Lene Nettelbeck, the new pavilion is based on the pair's 2011 project in Santiago, entitled Water Cathedral (part of the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program). Maintaining the project's basic elements - the stalactite formation, the slow water trickling and its open-air, public nature - the team revisited the original design, reworking it for the needs of Bedford Square. 'We wanted to see how the "stalactites" can be translated into a different typology, here in London,' says Godoy, who doesn't rule out resuming the theme for different projects in the future.
The public structure, sitting directly across from the school's main entrance, is designed to recreate an abstract rainforest environment. The pavilion's five-metre high tree-like structures hold groups of fabric stalactites, which gently drip water to the rocky ground, plant and pond landscaping below. Visitors are invited to sit underneath the dripping canopy and experience the serene microclimate of sounds, smells and touch.
An exhibition in the main AA gallery complements the installation, exploring further the architects' fascination with natural dynamics and water circulation and accumulation, while explaining their latest project's structural and conceptual evolution.