This is the full transcript of British architect David Adjaye talking to Diego García Scaro about his temporary pavilion, Sclera, situated on the South Bank in London.
Diego García Scaro You have done other temporary structures and pavilions. What do you think of the format? And how do you approach it? Does it have a special significance?
David Adjaye I enjoy the freedom it gives in terms of speculating and experimenting without an end functional brief. It’s an ideal prototyping arena for me.
DGS Why did you choose timber?
DA I’m known for working with timber. I was chosen to make this pavilion because of that but I said that I wanted this very special timber. Tulipwood is a renewable hardwood that is used more as a background material than for finishing and details because of its wide discolouration. Manufacturers can’t assure the colour, and designers are afraid of using something that is not exactly as the sample chip of wood they are shown. This is ridiculous. The pavilion is a way of showing how you can enjoy tulipwood’s variety and quality – it’s about how we look at natural products.
DGS What was your inspiration?
DA The pavilion is part of an ongoing discussion with myself about materiality, light and space. It’s another iteration dealing with the merging of construction, space, detail, ornament. It’s based on one overlapping construction detail – an overlap and a gap – and it’s about how to use a single material, how to modulate light, how to use ornament.
DGS Please elaborate on the modularity of the design.
DA The difference is that here there is a more variation and visual play where in Asymmetric Chamber, Horizon and Your Black Horizon the variation is more experiential than physical. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I’m moving away from the idea of the first pavilions where it was mainly about narrative trajectory. Here I wanted a complete immersion. If before it was about preparing and receiving the space and light, this one is about slowing it down in order to perceive.
DGS What kind of experience were you trying to foster? Are you interested in parallax?
DA I’ve explored parallax, when the object shifts when you move, from the first pavilions. I’m interested by this idea of opaque and porous space. I’m fascinated by spaces that are transparent from one perspective, and opaque from another.
DGS How did you arrive at this ceiling pattern? Are they really random lengths?
DA No, we didn’t work with algorithms. It’s more inspirational, it’s a compositional piece, it was about creating a spatial phenomenon. And also about forming a circle, how to form a cylindrical shape in an additive way, without having to curve wood. I have never done cylindrical shapes before. And I’m interested in constructional methodology and working with the materials, not in warping things, which is a kind of perverted construction. It’s a test of how one deals with the materiality, without forcing things to bend and shape.
DGS What’s the story behind the name?
DA Sclera – I’m fascinated by this word. In this project, when you are inside you are in modulated body of light. And I’m fascinated by the idea of optics. Sclera is where light congregates, a transitional space where light becomes information. And this project is about using light to modulate and create space, you know how space is created from lights and shadow. But it’s a pixelated image. It’s almost as if it’s still forming. It needs you – your eyes, your mind – to fill it. It sets up the scenario for how you experience the space. I’m interested in how materials operate, how you manipulate that with materials.
DGS Why is the pavilion closed? Was it vandalised?
DANo. One of the panels came loose. And for health and safety reasons they had to close it down. But I think it’s opening again today.