The pavilion is located in the courtyard of the Fondation d’entreprise Martell. It is specifically designed for the large dimensions of the space – 26 x 90 metres, or 2,350 m² – which is emblematic of Martell’s long history. We are honoured to be the first architects commissioned to design a temporary installation for this very special site during restoration work on the interior of the building. As this will be the inaugural pavilion, our decisions and directions will impact on subsequent projects.
We were given an extensive blank canvas and we wanted to set the tone by occupying the entire site with our pavilion, in the hope of inspiring future artists, architects and designers. The second important decision for us was to work with just one material. Owing to the vast dimensions of the project, the material needed to be accessible and available in large quantities. It also needed to be light, so as to be easy to dismantle and transport to its future location. Moreover, lightness has been a constant and integral aspect of our work, and we saw this project as a unique possibility to experiment and explore that concept further.
Another concept we typically like to work with is “off-the-shelf”. We thus started to look for the lightest and most cost-effective materials on the market. We found what we were looking for hidden away in the catalogue of Onduline, a leading French construction company with a worldwide presence. This was a roll, a very thin roll, just 1 mm thick, made with polyester and fibreglass. Its appearance and thinness reminded us of traditional Japanese rice paper. Suddenly, the whole exercise became about discovering a way to work with paper – rice paper, fibreglass paper – and finding a way to play with its shape so as to make it as rigid as possible. We realized that this was a very naïve and simple process, almost like absentmindedly fiddling with a strip of paper during a meeting, and with this vague pastime we ended up creating a vast paper forest which you could enter, walk around and get lost in. Obviously, when we had to make it real, buildable, we leaned on a couple of additional materials, like steel bars adapted to the paper shape, and – as we couldn’t touch the courtyard floor – we added some yellow cushions filled with water to prevent the paper from blowing away… But we still let it blow a little, in a gentle vibration that perfectly expresses the lightness of the entity.