German Pavilion for the Prague Quadrennial of Scenography and Theatre Architecture 2007

Every four years the Quadrennial International Exhibition of Scenography and Theatre Architecture is one of the most important theatre festivals in the world. More than 50 nations showcase contemporary approaches to the design of spatial and scenic elements, light and aural aspects that make up the theatrical event. This design study for a Pavilion, commissioned by the German curator, envisioned the pavilion as a performance environment of deliberately ambiguous relations between space, time and the convergence of protagonist and playgoer. This ambition of blurring the role of actor and audience manifested itself in the curator’s concept of not showing any exhibits except the pavilion structure itself and the multitude of effects generated by it.

The project commenced from the definition of a material system based on ruled surfaces, whereby the surfaces were reduced to the materialisation of the rulings as elastic strings that can be employed to modulate levels of transparency, exposure and enclosure as well as manipulating visual and physical connectivity. The emergent moiré effects can be instrumentalized to expose or veil visitors navigating through the structure, as the presence of a person between overlapping layers limits the effect locally and creates a flickering silhouette. Through iterative digital and physical tests the relation between the intensification and filtering of circulatory and visual conditions and various geometric parameters was explored; for instance the density and orientation of rulings dependent on the definition of base curves and the increment of material ruling interpretations. Beyond the parameters influencing conditions that effect the complex relation between space, body, movement and the emergent visual as well as luminous environment, the structural capacity is an integral aspect of the system as well. Due to the necessity of creating a self-supporting system, that does not rely on the listed exhibition hall except for resting on the ground, the articulation of the base curve follows structural criteria in such a way that the considerable accumulation of forces of all individual strings leads to an equilibrium state within the overall system.

The subsequent design evolution of various system types and related variations lead to a labyrinthine space of layering the experience of collective inhabitation and individual positioning from the external macro-environment of the exhibition hall towards the meso-scale of the pavilion and the micro-scale of its particular sub-locations and local effects. Different intensities of transparency, reflection and density intensified by topographical undulations and animated light sources provide a space of manifold micro-conditions. Each individual visitor’s response to these conditions and the resultant positioning and navigation through the space becomes part of a transient inhabitation that is at once active and passive constituent of the performance environment.

Since its acquisition in 2011 the project model forms part of the permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou Paris.

OCEAN NORTH and Scheffler+Partner
Project Coordination: Achim Menges
Project Team: Eva Scheffler, Steffen Reichert, Jochen Schütz