SELGASCANO’S PREMIERE PROJECT IN COGNAC REINTRODUCES US TO NEW POSSIBILITIES FOR CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS IN ARCHITECTURE
Gâtebourse is one of the most prominent modern architectural creations of Cognac. Constructed in 1929, the building is currently going through a major renovation as a new art and cultural space of the French sub-prefecture, which is expected to be completed in 2020-2021. Fondation d’entreprise Martell, under the direction of Nathalie Viot who has been a significant part in the foundation of the organization’s structure since it was known as Less is More Factory three years ago, came up with an approach to attract the general public’s interest in the space as well as the organization as ‘a multidisciplinary cultural corporate foundation’ during the period of its renovation. After the first and very much successful ‘Par nature,’ a site-specific installation where Vincent Lamouroux transformed the 600-square-meter space at the ground floor level of the building into a spectacular landscape of allwhite botany, the second project by Fondation d’entreprise Martell takes a step outside and occupies the expansive grounds at the back of its building. World-renowned Spanish architecture firm, SelgasCano, was chosen to be the mind behind the transformation of the 2,350-square-meter land into the organization’s new pavilion, a project that marks the office’s debut work in France.
What comes to mind when one hears the name SelgasCano – perhaps it’s plastic, translucence or a bold use of colors? We’re pretty sure that we’re not alone in having these ideas popping up in our heads the minute we see the name of the Spanish architecture firm and their works in magazines or on online media. We’re all familiar with their exciting experiments with new and modern materials and the variant shades of colors they brought to 2015’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, or the temporary structure they created for the Louisiana Hamlet Pavilion that was dismantled and reconstructed into a school building for Kibera Hamlets School in the congested residential area of Kenya the next year after its installation. All and all, what we have learned from their years of inspiring and undoubtedly creative projects is how their ideas involve a comprehensive study of the construction process, a restless search for new possibilities of materials and the integration of new technologies (or those that have not been commonly used in the construction industry previously) in order to maximize both the functional and aesthetic qualities of architecture. These elements have become a prominent part of SelgasCano’s signature and architectural accent. The firm’s most recent project freshly completed in mid 2017, Pavilion Martell de SelgasCano, serves as another inventive example of how the process of thinking and actual practice including the several other aforementioned factors contribute a great deal to the creation of their architecture. “As this will be the inaugural pavilion, our decisions and directions will impact subsequent projects,” said SelgasCano.
On the 26×90-meter ground that functions very much like a massive piece of canvas, the duo architects, José Selgas and Lucía Cano, proposed the idea of the pavilion occupying the extensive space at the back of Fondation d’entreprise Martell’s building with its organic form. And while the structure takes up a great deal of space, its controlled scale is very much user-friendly and most visitors won’t even feel that the temporary structure is overshadowing its surrounding context.
The two architects explained that this particular piece of work is derived from three main ideas. “We were given an extensive blank canvas and we wanted to set the tone by occupying the entire site with our pavilion, in the hopes 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.” The minds behind the famous Spanish firm further explained that the project also granted them the opportunity to experiment and explore the concept of ‘lightness,’ which has been a constant and integral aspect of their work.
AS THIS WILL BE THE INAUGURAL PAVILION, OUR DECISIONS AND DIRECTIONS WILL IMPACT SUBSEQUENT PROJECTS.
‘Off-the-shelf’ is also one of the important concepts that was brought back for the making of the pavilion. The most physically observable element of the project is the sheets of corrugated plastic the pavilion is practically made of. One could call it a coincidence, for after going through one of the catalogues, the architects came across the material developed by French brand Onduline, the country’s leading manufacturer of roofing materials. The material not only fulfills the architects’ aesthetic and functional demands for the pavilion but also that of Fondation d’entreprise Martell for whom one of their key missions is the advocation of environmental responsibility. With a thickness of only 1 millimeter, the combined quality of polyester and fiberglass causes Onduline sheets to be highly durable. Another interesting characteristic of the material is that while it bears the physicality of an ordinary translucent plastic sheet, when hit by the light, the rendered effects are colors that bring an idiosyncratic quality to the space. SelgasCano chose to handle the thinness of the material with the design of a lightweight steel structure that helps to support the plastic sheets that have a thickness equivalent to Japanese rice paper. The seemingly free organic form allows for the pavilion to exist in harmony with the surrounding nature while such freedom also grants the structure a flexibility that can accommodate different activities curated by artists and designers that are expected to happen in the future as the building is going through its renovation period.
Pavillon Martell de SelgasCano is now available for the public’s access and will be open until the 30th of June 2018. It will certainly be interesting to see what the pavilion will look like after the four seasons of France have passed, considering how one year is a fairly long period of time for a ‘temporary architecture.’ What many are also expecting to see is where the structure and materials used for the construction of the pavilion will be relocated to and reassembled following the completion of the project and in what ways it will relive its existence. Will we get to see another Kibera Hamlets School in the making? All remains to be seen.