words Diego Garcia Scaro
Timber slats hang like stalactites from the roof of a temporary pavilion on the South Bank, London. Designed by British architect David Adjaye, Sclera is made of tulipwood, a renewable hardwood from North America.
Its curved shape has been achieved not by bending the timber but by adding single vertical beams to form a sinuous semi-open volume. “I’ve never done cylindrical shapes before,” says Adjaye, “and I’m interested in working with the materials without forcing them to bend and shape, which is a kind of perverted construction.”
The pavilion looks a bit like a warped garden shed from a distance, but inside the undulating mass of wooden slats offers an unexpected visual treat. As you move around, they seem to shift and turn, alternately screening and revealing the sky outside. “I’m fascinated by spaces that are transparent from one perspective, and opaque from another,” says Adjaye. “But here I wanted complete immersion, it’s about slowing down in order to perceive.”
This effect relies heavily on the play of light and shadows created by the overlapping gaps of the structure, which alters your impression of the pavilion itself. “When you are inside you are in a modulated body of light,” says Adjaye. “But it’s a pixellated image. It’s almost as if it’s still forming. It needs you – your eyes, your mind – to fill it.”