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Ben Cousins: 'It's been a challenge to make it look elegant'

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Cousins & Cousins founder Ben Cousins speaks to the AJ about the practice’s glazed pavilion for Clerkenwell Design Week

London-based architects Cousins & Cousins has created Glaze, a multi-coloured glass pavilion for the annual central London design festival (19-21 May).

Constructed in collaboration with architectural glass manufacturer Gx Glass, the jewel-like structure in St John’s Square will host a programme of events for the duration of the design show. Here, Cousins & Cousins founder Ben Cousins speaks about its design.

Can you explain the idea behind the project?
The genesis of the idea was Venetian Murano Glass sweets and using that idea to create the experience of walking through something as whimsical as a little glass sweet.

What types of glass did you use?
Gx Glass is generally known for coloured glass splashbacks and interior glazing products. We have used a magnetic colour-backed glass whiteboard that you might find in an office meeting room. We have used that on the inside of the pavilion for some drawing events. There is also a ceramic printed glass and colour-backed glass that they use for splash backs and internal partition systems. 

What kind of structural challenges did it present?
It has been very challenging to get this thing to looking elegant and simple and not overly complex with the detailing. Clearly, we would prefer not to have any structure and it to be able to appear as frameless and structureless as possible. We worked with Form (a specialist engineering consultancy) to make the steel frame look as slender as possible and still create these large spans.
It is about 3.5m-tall at its highest point and narrows down at the centre. It looks and feels like a building even though it is only here for three days as a temporary ephemeral glass sweet. 

And you also worked LEDs into the structure?
There is a linear LED strip that runs through from the top of the structure all the way through the centre and all the way back out the top again. We wanted to accentuate the experience of walking through the structure and have the lights guiding your way through. It has the dual effect of lighting the thing up at night like a jewel. During the day, the colours and patterns create these amazing refractions and reflections so you get some really interesting images within the structure as well. 

What happens to it after the show?
It will be used at one of the company’s other events later this year. I can see this being reused in a high-end shop - an installation in Selfridges for example or even in a school playground or community environment. There are opportunities for its reuse and I am sure it will carry on living. 

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