The pavilion is the official Dutch entry for the International Garden Exhibition IGA 2003 held in Rostock, Germany. Two German architects Andre Kempe and Oliver Thill have designed the pavilion. Both have been running a design office, Atelier Kempe Thill, for some years in Rotterdam. For the architects the commission was very interesting on a personal level because it gave them an opportunity to build in their native East Germany and to present Holland abroad.
In the pavilion’s design the architects try to express the logic of Dutch agriculture – total rationality and industrialisation – and to explore the poetic potential inherent in this logic. Using rational and objective means only, they try to give the pavilion a romantic dimension.
The architectural starting point is a fascinating new building element: the ‘smart screen’. The smart screen is an ivy hedge grown in Dutch glasshouses. It is produced in sections measuring 1.2 by 1.8 metres and used in gardens. Essentially an industrial product, the hedges can be deployed to build ‘green walls’. Normally, the growth process of ivy takes years to create a green building. With smart screens, the growth period is reduced that of the construction process. A wall of ‘smart screens’ lacks the organic pattern of a normal wall of ivy. Instead, it is composed of a series of almost identical elements, which emphasises its industrial character. The IGA is an instant mass event; the building is an instant pergola.
The dimensions of the building are 20 x 6.5 x 10 metres. The pavilion is, in fact, a pergola. Its compact shape, the inclusion of 4-metre-high doors and the roof give it the character of an enclosed ‘house’. This is counterbalanced by the open nature of the ivy plants.
The steel framework creates 5 rows of channels filled with earth from which the smart screens grow. An internal, computer-controlled system of pipes provides irrigation for the hedges. The structure has no conventional diagonal bracing but is stabilised by 4 star-shaped corner columns that withstand all horizontal forces. Vertical loads are carried by a multitude of 5-centimetre-thick columns. Consequently, the hedges are visually continuous, and it appears as if they support the structure. The hedges partly conceal the star-shaped columns, each of which weighs 4000 kilograms, and make them appear less substantial. Visually, it seems as if the hedges turn the corners, yet at the same time the corners are marked in a subtle manner.
The interior is enclosed on all sides by 10-metre-high walls of green ivy. A screen of translucent plastic covers the top of the space. The quiet interior is sheltered from the surrounding, hectic IGA exhibition grounds. The space is very neutral and modest and can be used for different functions. Yet it is also very specific because of the special materials used and its proportions.
Dominating the interior are interesting light conditions. Light entering through the ceiling gives it the character of a classical museum space, and more light filters through the enclosing hedges. The result is an interesting play between inside and outside. The light from above makes the space feel like an interior, while the light entering through the open hedges gives it the character of an exterior space. What’s more, the gentle movement of the ivy leaves and their shadows enhances the perception of the space.
Five video columns with 20 plasma screens are mounted in the space. Single-piece polycarbonate shells up to 6 metres in height enclose those columns. A video by Leo Schepman is shown to visitors on the screens. The aim of the pavilion and video is to explore the relationship between man and nature and to examine the spatial potential of plants in contemporary architecture.