A materially simple yet structurally complex pavilion welcomed visitors to an international architectural competition that took over Montpelier’s 16th-century French hotels.
For the seventh annual Festival des Architectures Vives, or the Festival of Lively Architecture, held this year in Montpelier, France, design studio Atelier Vecteur (AV) was asked to create a pavilion to welcome visitors to the city-wide outdoor installation competition. This year 11 international architecture teams were each assigned a courtyard in one of Montpelier’s many historic hotels. Dating back to the 16th-century, these quiet, private spaces act like refuges from the city streets. They also offered the competing teams a unique venue for their site-specific installations as well as a challenge to come up with the best use of the interior outdoor space. AV was assigned the 18th-century Hôtel Saint-Côme, a former center for medical study and practice funded by Louis XV’s surgeon, who used it until it closed in 1792 during the French Revolution.
In contrast to the hotel’s stone exterior and decorative facade, AV created a 3x3x3 meter cube out of just two materials: unfinished Pine wood slats and nails, which are hidden from view. The slats are arranged on two 90-degree axes, horizontal and vertical, producing a sort of binary out of wood. This allowed the designers to create variations in the planes of the cube. On two sides, for example, an egg-shaped bulge protrudes from the pavilion, appearing to stretch the slatted structure from within. The bulge is echoed on the interior, creating an ovular space for visitors to gather and peruse festival literature in a solid yet airy structure that offers a more contemporary environmental experience than the courtyard, which has remained unchanged for centuries.
To determine how many wood slats they would need and how best to assemble them, AV made a 3D rendering using Rhino for the volume and ArchiCAD to quantify and measure the individual pieces of wood. There are 1,440 slats in all, each 10cm thick and 10cm to three meters long. Once the wood was cut into the correct lengths, each piece was labeled according to its position in the overall structure and rationalized into a sectional framework. There are 60 frames in all each composed of 24 slats of various lengths and configurations. Once prefabricated, the frames were trucked to the hotel courtyard, where AV’s five-person studio assembled the pavilion over the following two days.
After it provided a point of entry to the sprawling festival and was used by adults and children alike as a retreat, reading room, or play space, the pavilion found a second life. It was taken down and rebuilt for an exhibition about the festival at L’Ecole d’Architecture in Montpelier, where it will be on view until the end of the year.