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London's 'Unzipped Wall' art sculpture finds new permanent home in Vancouver

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Kenneth Chan Apr 03, 2017 9:22 am 5,368

A major public art piece will replace an outdoor plaza space at the western foot of Shaw Tower on the northeast corner of Thurlow Street and West Cordova Street in downtown Vancouver.

The ‘Unzipped Wall’ sculpture, designed by Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels firm for the annual Serpentine Pavilion in London, will be shipped to Vancouver where it will be reassembled as the city’s newest permanent public art fixture.

Each year, the Serpentine Gallery contracts an artist or architect to design a pavilion that houses its summertime programming at Kensington Garden. Past designers at the exhibition include Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Herzog & Meuron, and Ai Weiwei.

Ingels’ tall white sculpture consists of 1,800 modular fibreglass frames stacked on top of each other and then “pulled apart to form a cavity within it,” effectively creating a sheltered pavilion space.

“This unzipping of the wall turns the line into a surface, transforming the wall into a space,” reads the architect’s design rationale. “A complex three-dimensional environment is created that can be explored and experienced in a variety of ways, inside and outside.”

Artistic rendering of Bjarke Ingels’ “Unzippd Wall” Serpentine Pavilion relocated to the plaza space at the base of Shaw Tower in downtown Vancouver. (Westbank Projects Corp.)

Passersby will be able to walk into the pavilion’s curved opening and into the covered space, which even hosted a cafe during its short stay in London.

“The unzipped wall creates a cave-like canyon lit through the fibreglass frames and the gaps between the shifted boxes, as well as through the translucent resin of the fiberglass. As a result, the shifting overlaps as well as the movement and presence of people outside create a lively play of light and shadow on the cave walls within.”

The pavilion is being relocated to Vancouver as it was recently purchased by local developer Westbank Projects Corp., which was one of the sponsors of the 2016 Serpentine exhibition.

Westbank’s headquarters is located in Shaw Tower and known to have a well-established relationship with Ingels, who designed the developer’s under-construction Vancouver House tower on the north end of the Granville Street Bridge.

But prior to the pavilion’s arrival in Vancouver, it might be temporarily displayed in New York City and Toronto.

Two other sculptures are located within the immediate vicinity of the site – the Olympic Cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza to the north and the winged Statue of Nike, a gift from Greece for hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, on the median at the intersection of Cordova and Thurlow streets to the south.

Pavilions are often talked about as test beds for architectural ideas that need to be experimented with outside of the constraints of a functioning building. The annual programme of pavilions hosted by the Serpentine Gallery in London showcases the work of generally very renowned architects who have not completed a building in the UK. As a consequence, the projects tend to be less experiments of new, untested ideas, and more distillations of the key characteristics of the body work completed by that architect in other countries. This is less true of this year’s pavilion by Bjarke Ingels of BIG than of those of many of his predecessors—the diaphanous design is a departure from much of Ingels’ built work, which owes more to the ramped, cranked and stacked form making of his former employer, Rem Koolhaas’s OMA. Ingels’ pavilion could instead be seen as a built prototype for the screened facades of some of BIG’s more speculative proposals for buildings. Robin Evans has remarked that architecture differs from other forms of art in that it must not only be about the world, but also of the world—consequently making it harder to sustain a perception of it as an art object. This problem of being of the world is generally removed by the pavilion genre, which requires architecture to exist as an object in space, but does not require it to offer an effective enclosure or to house a function. The Serpentine pavilions, however, are required to accommodate a cafe for visitors, adding utilitarian demands not usually asked of a pavilion. The interior of Ingels’ pavilion achieves this with the addition of large umbrellas to provide shelter from the rain and sun that the architecture does not, and small free-standing cubes that house equipment and refreshments. The umbrellas read as visually distinct from the architectural composition and so appear as furnishings with a status similar to the visitors themselves. The cubes, however, are formally related to the overall architectural composition . . . [continued on previous post] #bjarkeingels #BIG #architecture #serpentinepavilion #article #photography #williamtozer #hydepark

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Kenneth Chan
National Features Editor at Daily Hive, the evolution of Vancity Buzz. He covers local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation and infrastructure, and the travel industry. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]dailyhive.com

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