The People’s Pavilion 2023 is ‘about the power of the collective’

The People’s Pavilion 2023 launches at Lea Bridge Library, Waltham Forest in east London – and it’s designed and built by teenagers

People's Pavilion 2023 hero exterior
(Image credit: Luke O'Donovan)

The People's Pavilion 2023, the creative youth-centred competition organised by the award-winning community interest company Beyond The Box, has just been completed. ‘We should collectively be championing young people’s creativity,’ says Neil Onions, founding director of Beyond The Box. This pioneering initiative, now in its second iteration, sees teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 design and build a temporary structure in east London.

People's Pavilion 2023 timber structure

(Image credit: Luke O'Donovan)

The People’s Pavilion 2023

Located in Lea Bridge Library's garden in Waltham Forest, this year's pavilion was designed by 18-year-olds Bruno De Marco, Tomi Balogun, and Zhané Philips. The trio’s winning proposal was chosen over six other designs after receiving more than 2,500 public votes. Named ‘Roots of Heritage’ the scheme uses locally sourced timber to create an open space for reflection. The three students from the borough of Tower Hamlets also won an all-expenses trip to the Venice Biennale 2023, where they received a special tour of the British Pavilion. 

People's Pavilion 2023 with people in

(Image credit: Luke O'Donovan)

Constructed by Beyond The Box, the winning team, and an impressive set of volunteers, the scheme was made viable by engineering practice Price and Myers and David Chipperfield Architects. ‘The People's Pavilion is about the power of the collective,' says Onions. 

People's Pavilion 2023 close up

(Image credit: Luke O'Donovan)

Young people not only design and build the pavilion but also curate what happens inside of it. As part of the programme, Beyond The Box employed a team of young people to produce a free summer festival at the temporary building. 

‘This year's People's Pavilion has been a perfect example of a space where culture and community have connected,’ says project lead Shirin Naveed. This cultural event line-up includes free film screenings, panel talks, and skills workshops organised by emerging practices Our Space, Bold, and 1:100 podcast and youth music company Gain Ctrl.  

People's Pavilion 2023 roof detail

(Image credit: Luke O'Donovan)

The wider initiative, which saw young people learn about the built environment, was delivered in partnership with London-based organisations Re-Fabricate, Saqqra, and Scale Rule. Various architecture practices also supported the programme, such as Heatherwick Studios, Morris + Company, and AHMM. ‘The project is the product of many hands,’ says Marwa El Mubark, co-founder of Saqqra.  

People's Pavilion 2023 entrance

(Image credit: Luke O'Donovan)

The People’s Pavilion has helped upskill over 100 young east Londoners through creative workshops, training sessions and events. 'We provide opportunities for all the runners-up and we encourage the young people to stay on our network post the programme,’ says Onions. Through this forward-thinking initiative, Beyond The Box aims to discover the young place-makers of tomorrow, flipping the script on who gets to design and curate cultural spaces. 

Shawn Adams is an architect, writer, and lecturer who currently teaches at Central St Martins, UAL and the Architectural Association. Shawn trained as an architect at The Royal College of Art, Architectural Association and University of Portsmouth. He is also the co-founder of the socially-minded design practice Power Out of Restriction. In 2023, POoR won the London Design Festival’s Emerging Design Medal. Shawn writes for numerous international magazines about global architecture and design and aims to platform the voices of those living across the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa.