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Monday, May 18, 2009

Two Pavilions in New York City and Chicago by UNStudio

If the two structures that UNStudio have designed this year for New York City and Chicago are any indication, Ben van Berkel is the go-to guy for commemorative pavilions located in parks. The New Amsterdam Plein & Pavilion in Manhattan's Battery Park is part of NY400, a Dutch-American celebration of Henry Hudson's arrival in New York Harbor 400 years ago. The flower-shaped pavilion is set to be a permanent piece in Battery Park's Peter Minuet Plaza, providing food, seating and cultural events.

Ben van Berkel describes the form of the pavilion as an "expression of its public function...[oriented] to all parts of the Battery," accomplished by the opening up of the four wings. This flowing form will be appreciated most by the occupants of nearby towers, but for the anticipated 70,000 tourists and commuters passing by each day the programming of the 24-hour pavilion (multi-color LED lighting will activate it at night) will be most important. Details on how food service and cultural events will be inserted into the tiny pavilion is not clear, but the plaza (plein) design will need to be as considered as the pavilion's form to make the place successful.

The Burnham Pavilion in Chicago's Millennium Park celebrates another anniversary, the centennial of Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago. Included in the park will be another pavilion designed by Zaha Hadid. Unlike the New York pavilion, this one is pure sculpture. No functional necessities impinge upon Ban van Berkel's exploration of fluid form. In the design two parallel slabs sit atop Millennium Park's paving, with the top slab cut in a few areas and curled down to lightly touch the base.

Like the New York pavilion, the Burnham Pavilion is further activated by LED lights that change in color and pattern, supposedly "in constant flux as the number of visitors to the pavilion changes." The organizers expect the object to function as an "urban activator," whatever exactly that is, though I expect, like Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate also in the park, it will allow for chance encounters as tourists and residents alike interact with undulating surfaces.

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