Redefining Clay

The pavilion design project for the Size + Matter Expo in London sought to push what materials can do, both in technology and application. Our group chose to take the latter route and redefine a commonly understood material: unfired clay. Clay has been used extensively in vernacular architecture, but mainly from a practical standpoint. Any aesthetic developed out of these applications has had to be filtered through necessary functions, first. Rather than bowing to the heavy, rigid, and rectilinear forms clay has often taken on, we sought to push the antithesis of these features: lightness, delicacy, and organic form.

Our pavilion’s design focuses on organic clay forms creating these swirls of movement and pause. With the possibility to enter the space through a number of points, people are able to come and go as they please, if they choose to interact with the space at all. We did not want to force an interaction, though. So if people wish to not interact with it, it is easy to walk around it or right through it with little obstruction. Upon entering, the curved clay forms guide visitors through the pavilion back and forth. A multitude of open spaces in between each piece allow for a number of path options, as well as exit opportunities. Within the clay structure are a series of holes carved out of modules that make the bulk of the structure. These holes, when viewed from a distance, bleed together and create a translucent screen-like effect, pushing even further away the preconceived notions of the possibilities of clay.

Not only have organic forms from a traditionally heavy material and a sense of transparency been created, but by placing an all clay pavilion in an urban context, an acontextual moment is formed. The structure is surrounded by cold concrete, glass and steel, juxtaposed against the natural and warm feel that clay inherently brings. By redefining clay in this context, a serendipitous moment has been created.

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