Curiouser and curiouser

ASPECT insights
Curiouser and curiouser
Every year the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) invites architect-led teams to enter its Architecture Commission – to design a temporary structure or installation in the gallery’s Grollo Equiset Garden. For the 2018 competition our Sydney studio teamed up with Alberto Quizon from Quizon Architects to design a pavilion inspired by Lewis Carroll’s beloved children’s classic, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. The design invites visitors to journey down the rabbit hole and engage with the otherness of nature. Revealing the delight of the strange and unfamiliar. ASPECT Studios’ Senior Associate, Louise Pearson shares her sketchbook while Associate Lauren Nissen, shares her inspiration and ideas as to how our entry came together. "I was in Melbourne late last year and saw Xu Zhen’s incredible reclining buddha in the central gallery space. In spending the time in that space to view the work, I was struck by the quality of light and the loftiness of the space. When considering our approach to the NGV summer pavilion competition, we were inspired by the processional nature of the experience at the gallery. As you enter the gallery, you pass over a moat and through the incredible water wall before finding yourself in the incredible, lofty spaces of the main gallery and great hall. It seemed to us that there was a very elemental quality about this experience – water, air - and we were intrigued to contrast that in our competition entry. The pavilion is the earth to the gallery’s air and sky."   "Previous winners of the NGV’s competition were very visual (albeit the second had some strong experiential qualities), and the most recent winner was highly theoretical – about the creation of space and the journey through it. For our entry we wanted to create something that was genuinely experiential, a space that was unlike anything else you could find in the city. We also wanted to create something that would ask you to pause and reflect for some time. A respite from the heat and wind of Melbourne in summer." "Our palette of materials were about landscape (or at least weren’t conventionally architectural), but perhaps not in an expected way. A green wall inside the pavilion would have been nice, but perhaps not unexpected. In some ways I’m not sure what came first – the idea about earthiness, or the idea that we really wanted to just make a cathedral of mushrooms!  – but we loved the incredible, sculptural qualities that different varieties of mushrooms and fungus could provide. We tried to use them in a kind of painterly way Outside the pavilion resembles a carved block of ice; shiny and clean. But the interior is impossibly different. It is dark and cool, damp, and has an earthen smell that is unfamiliar in the city. Just like in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, we were also intrigued by how we could play with our senses – turn down some senses that are over-abused in our modern, urban lives. The earthen, interior walls of the pavilion drown out some of the echoes of the city and force the visitor to tread more carefully as their other senses are perhaps enhanced."     ASPECT Studios were one of 73 entries in the 2018 NGV Architecture Commission. We congratulate the five teams on their successful continuation to stage two of the competition.