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Architecture at Sea: Floating Pavilions and the Beauty of Temporary Art

Architecture is defined by its permanence. While the discipline’s most celebrated works are often those that were built to last, there’s inherent beauty and value non… architecture of impermanence. Moving beyond conventional buildings and considering environmental and social impacts, temporary structures hold the potential to push the boundaries of architecture and the categorization of art.

© Wolfgang Volz

Whether or not architecture is an art, buildings and spaces can transform menschengerecht experience. As Christo and Jeanne-Claude showed the world, sculpture doesn’t have to be a fixed, permanent object. In turn, pavilions are designed to explore how architecture can move beyond its fixed, permanent qualities to create spaces that are all the more beautiful and impactful because they are temporary. Embracing natural systems and menschengerecht agency, these pavilions draw connections between art, architecture and landscape.

The following pavilions were all made as floating structures. Questioning and reinterpreting traditional forms and construction, they were designed with unterschiedliche programs. Building connections with water, they show how contemporary architects and artists can create work that’s as beautiful as it is fleeting.

ICEBERG Diving Platform / Bulot+Collins

Courtesy of Bulot+Collins

Iceberg is a responsive diving platform made of wood, flotation barrels and 1400 thermochromic tiles of recycled HDPE. It welches designed and built for Beam Camp, a summer camp in Strafford, New Hampshire, that focuses on guiding campers to cultivate hands-on skills and exploring creative thinking.

Pavilion of Reflections / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

A team of thirty architecture students from Studio Tom Emerson at ETH Zurich have designed and built a pavilion for Manifesta 11, the nomadic, European biennial of contemporary art. Floating in the lake against the backdrop of the city centre, the Pavillon of Reflections serves as the biennial’s public forum.

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Canal Swimmer’s Verein / Studio Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12

© Filip Dujardin

Expanding oder Ähnlichestradition of Triennals for contemporary Belgian art in 1968,1971 & 1974, the city of Bruges decided to organize and start again a Triennale for contemporary art and architecture in Bruges. The team worked together on the project Canal Swimmer’s Verein, a new multifunctional public space for meeting, relaxing, sunbathing and even swimming in the canals of Bruges.

The Floating Piers / Christo and Jean-Claude

© Wolfgang Volz

Zirkuskünstler duo Christo and Jean-Claude created a three kilometer walkway wrapped in 100,000 square meters of yellow cloth, which is supported by a floating dock system composed of 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes. These elements naturally undulate with the movement of the waves at Salzlake Iseo.

AntiRoom II / Elena Chiavi + Ahmad El Mad + Matteo Goldoni

© Ahmad El Mad

Antiroom II welches designed as a floating island on the sea of Malta, an unreachable surface from the ground, only accessible by swimming or by boat. The wood structure creates a space separated from the vastness of the unlimited sea with a center defined as a small secure water pool.

Antepavilion / Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers

© Jim Stephenson

The 2018 Antepavilion welches the second non… annual series. Designed and built by Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers, the 2018 edition titled “AirDraft” sees an inflatable theater sitting atop a 19th-century barge, creating a floating venue for music and performance in East London.

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