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Exclusive: IF_DO wins Dulwich Picture Gallery pavilion contest

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‘Simple but sophisticated, edgy but engaging’ concept chosen for June Festival of Architecture project

Organisers of the London Festival of Architecture (LFA) have chosen emerging Camberwell-based practice IF_DO to design a temporary events pavilion outside John Soane’s Grade II*-listed Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Set up in 2014 by Al Scott, Sarah Castle and Thomas Bryans, the practice was chosen ahead of finalists Pernilla Ohrstedt; Ross Galtress, Charlotte Knight, Chris Allen from Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios; and a joint bid by Tom Benton Architects, Hayatsu Architects and MJ Wells.

Seventy-five up-and-coming designers entered the contest to design the pavilion, which will be the stage for ‘a vibrant programme of public events’ during the festival in June.

The winning scheme is described as a lightweight structure with a timber truss roof housing a ‘series of translucent mirrored screens – some fixed, some moveable [which] reflect and disrupt the context’.

Commenting on IF_DO’s proposal, jury member Carl Turner said: ‘Simple but sophisticated, edgy but engaging, the pavilion has many layers but, most importantly, is conceived as an attractor for a new audience, designed to reach out to a wider public.’

Organised by the LFA – the Dulwich Pavilion competition invited ‘fresh and exciting architectural talent’ to draw up proposals for the new structure.

The winning design will be constructed in time for the start of this year’s LFA on 1 June, and will mark the gallery’s 200th anniversary. The south London building is believed to be England’s oldest public gallery.

The innovative brick building features a series of interlinked, top-lit rooms which helped redefine standard approaches to art gallery design. Rick Mather Architects renovated the building and created a separate café and exhibition space nearby 16 years ago.

The temporary pavilion will host exhibitions, events, lectures and learning activities, and will allow the Dulwich Picture Gallery to meet growing visitor numbers and harness new revenue streams. Judges included Thomson, Dejardin, Carl Turner of Carl Turner Architects and River Café founder Ruth Rogers.



Source: Image by Simon Webb

Winner: IF_DO (Al Scott, Sarah Castle and Thomas Bryans)

Q&A: If_DO

  • How did you arrive at your vision for the new Dulwich Pavilion?

We were fascinated by the juxtaposition of the gallery and surrounding landscape. The gallery is a striking building with a formal plan, impenetrable classic facades, with light drawn in from above, and circulation and sight lines all being carefully orchestrated internally. The somewhat introspective nature of the gallery is a stark contrast to the landscape in which it so proudly sits—an informal, picturesque composition of lawns and trees—a beautiful, transitory and open space.

The LFA theme of ‘memory’ this year, was inspiring and very relevant to this project. Drawing on the theme of memory and the devices synonymous with the architecture of Soane—mirrors, folding panels, manipulation of natural light, spatial blurring, and framing—the pavilion acts as an instrument of reflection, both visual and cognitive, creating an architecture of the unexpected.

We were particularly inspired by the concept of After Image, especially as theorised by Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos: the image of the building you take home with you, “an inexhaustible, ever-renewing composite of perceptions, memories and thoughts”.

The pavilion playfully distorts and layers its context, creating events individual to each visitor; intense impressions, reflections: memories.

Dulwich Pavilion contest

Dulwich Pavilion contest

Source: Image by Simon Webb

Winner: IF_DO

  • What gave your competition-winning scheme an edge over its rivals?

We spent a great deal of time in analysing the context and brief and so we were confident that our pavilion offered not only an inspirational structure which is sensitive to its place, but one that could be realised.

Consideration to the craft of architecture and understanding of its process is integral to our design approach. In this instance we wanted to consider how our pavilion would go together early on in the design stages, so we partnered up with StructureMode, a firm of highly creative structural engineers, to develop a structure which we were confident would work and could be constructed using traditional, standard timber components.

  • How will it transform the gallery’s visitor experience and reach out to new audiences?

With it’s layering of translucent mirrors and mirrored panels, the pavilion will act as a unique visual experience for gallery visitors—both new and existing ones alike. It will be a fun, Instagramable space, and we hope it will appeal to a large and diverse audience. The gallery is an incredible institution, and if we help to draw more people to it, we will be delighted.

  • Why is this an important competition win for your practice?

Of the three competitions that we have entered, this is the first that we have won, which means a lot in itself. For it to be a competition with such an incredible context, such an exciting brief, and to be so high profile makes it especially significant for us. As a showcase project for our practice, we could not wish for a better opportunity.

  • What did you learn from participating in this competition?

We have learnt a great deal. Developing a strong concept early, and running with it was critical for us in this case, as it enabled us to develop the proposal to a level of resolution which we think was required to win, and in a very short space of time. Presenting to a panel of such talented, culturally significant people was a first time experience for us, and while initially daunting, was immensely enjoyable.

Dulwich Pavilion contest

Dulwich Pavilion contest

Source: Image by Forbes Massie

Winner: IF_DO

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