Part of the attraction of citywide events like the LFA is the way that temporary structures are parachuted into the city streets. Architects and engineers have an ongoing fascination with pavilions; they offer up a way of re-inventing the urban realm without the need for pesky long-term permissions or consultations, giving passers-by an instant hit of three-dimensional space.
This year, the LFA was well furnished with short-term streetscape. One of our favourite structures was the Hy-Pavilion, which was set up in Park Crescent before being moved to the NLA HQ in Store Street for the rest of the festival. Designed by London-based engineers Price & Myers - a studio with a long and distinguished history of collaborating with cutting edge architects and facilitating their forms - the pavilion provided shelter for talks and presentations, as well as the multitude of LFA visitors who just wanted somewhere shady to sit.
According to Tim Lucas, the partner at Price & Myers who oversaw the scheme, the aim was to create something 'that was made out of a very basic element - a straight line - put together in an interesting way so that it could be elegant and exciting but simple to make and build.' The main body of the pavilion is created from black cord and timber beams, 'arranged in the shape of two intersecting hyperbolic paraboloids. These are the geometric form that lends its name to the pavilion,' says Lucas.
The self-supporting structure was a (relative) breeze to erect. By linking the main beams in the middle and at their tips ('like four pairs of scissors') the pavilion acts like a giant mechanism that rises up as the corners are pulled together. As a result, the engineers point out, 'the three storey high structure can be put up without any need for cranes or scaffolding'.
The beams came from Finnforest, suppliers of high quality Finnish timber, while the canopy and cord were provided by Millimetre, a Brighton based firm. With stainless steel from Lancashire and construction by Hull-based Commercial Systems International, the Hy-Pavilion was low cost, swift and satisfying. We caught up with P&M to hear their thoughts on the concept of the temporary pavilion.
Is pavilion design still a useful experimental process for engineers and architects?
The lesson that we hope is conveyed is that buildings and structures can look remarkable without being complicated and expensive to make and build. The short timescale and low budget, rather than a hindrance, were an excuse to experiment with what could be done quickly, with few materials and little funding - a good exercise for any engineer or architect.
Can you apply lessons learned here to permanent buildings, or does the short timescale and low budget preclude experimentation?
The whole pavilion, once disassembled, can fit onto a 7.5 tonne flatbed truck, so can be moved, stored, and re-erected easily and relatively cheaply. The festival this year was itself an experiment on how much can be achieved with good will, collaboration and imagination - all valuable assets in any design team.
Do you think there should be more events like the LFA to encourage this kind of quasi-permanent architecture?
The festival is now such a vast celebration of the built environment, inclusive of so many parts of London, that we perhaps couldn't and shouldn't have anything else similar here. The fact that it happens every two years and is so well known means that practices can save up time, budgets and ideas to do something special. It would however be great to see it becoming a national celebration of architecture - maybe the Festival of Architecture: Edinburgh/Belfast/Liverpool?
What will happen to the pavilion after the festival?
The Hy-pavilion will go on to feature in other festivals and industry exhibitions. We welcome any comments and suggestions...