LONDON ICONIC PAVILION BY LC ARCHITECTS – AN IDEA REALISATION PROCESSInterview
AA 5th Year Maridia Kafetzopoulou interviews Natassa Liannou and Ermis Chalvatzis, AA DRL Graduates and founders of Lianou Chalvatzis Architects (LC-A), about their London Iconic Pavilion
06 May 2016
LC-A London Iconic Pavilion
On the 30th of November 2015, Lianou Chalvatzis Architects (LC-A), founded by Natassa Liannou and Ermis Chalvatzis, were invited to be part of the ‘What’s Next’ lecture series, a series the Architectural Association (AA) started last year as a way to invite graduates, both recent and established, back to the AA to discuss their unique forms of practice. In their lecture entitled “Smart Design Elegance and the Digital Craft”, Natassa and Ermis went through their unique and growing portfolio, focusing on the recent work of their young London-based architecture and design studio. They presented projects at various scales that triggered their office’s growth under the prism of their philosophy and processes, which emphasises what they call ‘Smart Design Elegance’, bridging design, functionality, sustainability, and elegance, with structural- and cost-efficiency.
LC-A was founded in 2015 and is based in London. The firm focuses on a variety of work, from towers and master plans to small scale products and interiors. Their paths have closely paralleled one another, with both architects graduating from the AA in 2011, receiving their Masters in Architecture and Urbanism from Design Research Laboratory (DRL) with distinction.
Prior to establishing their firm, they gained rich experience on a variety of projects during a lengthy stint at Zaha Hadid Architects, as part of Zaha’s elite core team.
In continuation of the lecture’s conversation and as an extension of the question ‘what’s next?’ after graduating from the AA, this interview with Natassa and Ermis will take us through their experience and the detailed process of realising their very first built project, the “London Iconic Pavilion”.
The unique and innovative “London Iconic Pavilion”, was recently presented as part of the world’s greatest gaming show, ICE Totally Gaming exhibition 2016, which took place in ExCel London last February. In collaboration with the structural engineer company BuroHappold Engineering, LC-A designed a 700sqm innovative high-end portable pavilion, which hosted the mobile exhibition of Intralot, an international and leading gaming solutions supplier and operator. With London as it’s first stop, the iconic pavilion will travel alongside INTRALOT’s leading gaming products and services to Singapore, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and elsewhere.
The Iconic Pavilion
Could you elaborate on the brief you were given and what your first response was?
The brief called for a pavilion where the various distinct departments of the company could present their products, a bar to host the presentations, events, and gather visitors throughout the day, as well as three meeting rooms in which the company’s CEO and managers could meet with their existing and potential clients.
There was a specific site with given dimensions and the brief highlighted the need for a customer journey. The task was to design the overall pavilion and each element and furniture which needs to be there in order to showcase the company’s products, hardware, and software.
The Iconic Pavilion
The client also noted that they travel to various exhibitions around the world every year so we came up with the idea of a portable pavilion that would be light-weight and have an assembly concept, thus it will be able to travel and transfer this new and fresh character that we created for them to their journey around the world.
Our pavilion is designed with maximum flexibility and it can adapt to the various locations and dimensions of each site. Simultaneously, since it is a tech-company we wanted to create a high-end, smart, and iconic design which will transmit a fresh and unique identity.
Hence the concept is based on the subdivision of the pavilion on various areas. We designed eight petals which subdivide the space into eight areas, and the negative space functions as a navigation system for the visitors.
The idea of the exhibition pavilions, in contrast with permanent buildings and structures, is that they are built to attract people, to transmit a message according to what they showcase and to be memorable when the exhibition finishes and the pavilion travels to other destinations. They stand in the same location for only a few days, so the design should be eye-catching and transfer the message of what it presents onto the design. They should be easily accessible so people can walk them through and give an intense and unique atmosphere and experience, aiming to attract visitors and make them spend more time in the pavilion so they experience the various areas and products.
Simultaneously, since the London Iconic Pavilion is a portable pavilion which can travel around the world in various sites and conditions, we had to be sure that the structure was self-supporting, and although we designed a challenging and cutting-edge structure, it should be structurally autonomous and light-weight in order to travel easily, even by plane.
The structure should also be assembled on site each time and in a limited amount of time. Thus our design embeds a simple assembly concept. The petals consist of smaller aluminium components which are tagged and connected on site, forming the perimeter ring beam. Then, a tailor made white tensile fabric is stretched around it like a giant sock, giving the final appearance of the petals. Anyone with the assembly manual could put it together.
The greatest challenge was to take all these constraints and convert them into real design tools which will be embedded into our design, while it will consist of an elegant and iconic architectural piece with spatial qualities and experiential spaces.
The Iconic Pavilion
The philosophy of your practice is “Smart Design Elegance”. How does the London Iconic Pavilion apply to your philosophy?
Smart Design Elegance embodies our design process which bridges engineering, structural- and cost-efficiency, sustainability, and elegance. London Iconic Pavilion is a pure outcome of our philosophy where all these parameters were feeding our design with information from the very beginning and working closely with our engineers from BH towards a goal for the fittest and most elegant design for the given set of conditions. Our design process began incorporating the client’s brief, and through various design versions and always in communication with our engineers, the manufacturer, and the contractor, we managed to adapt our design to everyone’s needs with a final 80% reduced cost and response to the given budget.
The design is based on pure geometrically and mathematically defined forms, and the materiality comprised a great parameter of the process. Through constant feedback loops between the material’s behavior and properties, our computational form-finding, and the structural constrains, we achieved the final design.
It is a result of converting constraints into design input and opportunities and challenging engineering with the final goal to create sensational spaces with intense atmosphere and unique spatial qualities. The design elegance is a product of a harmonious synthesis of all these parameters.
As a young architecture practice having completed your very first built project this is definitely an important moment for you. What have you learnt from the experience that would help you with your future projects?
The Iconic Pavilion
Our experience of designing and building the London Iconic Pavilion offered us a rich understanding of various stages of our profession. Communicating and negotiating with various people, teams and parties- from the client and the engineers to the manufacturer, material experts and the contractor- we learned how important our role is to safeguard our initial design and ideas and how to incorporate everyone’s needs into our design process.
Simultaneously we learned to work and deliver from beginning to end- cutting-edge design within budget and tight deadlines within London’s intense environment, while dealing with colleagues from all over the world.
The Iconic Pavilion
What is the future of the pavilion now since it is going to travel around the world? How much control will you have from now on regarding the design?
The next destinations this year for our pavilion are in October and November, in Atlanta and Singapore. The new sites are much smaller and different in comparison with London’s. Our task now is to adjust the existing elements of London’s pavilion to the new sites. The pavilion was originally designed to be flexible and smart in terms of adapting to various sizes. So now that it is travelling to smaller locations it will be consisted from 2 or 4 petals and with different combinations and re-arrangements of the furniture and dividing walls.
We perceive it as a design story which unfolds through time and space, from Europe to Asia, and the U.S.A, where each time a new version of the design family will be generated, transferring the story and the message of a unique, iconic, and innovative portable pavilion.