April 19, 2021

Schiller Projects and Novak Hiles Architects Collaborate on Beguiling Garden Pavilion

A close up of the canopy. Photography by Andy Tye/French+Tye.

Sometimes the most sober-minded research leads to the most playful outcomes. Take this beguiling garden pavilion, perched on a London rooftop, by New York’s Schiller Projects in collaboration with local firm Novak Hiles Architects. Comprising a curved oak bench sheltered by a canopy of oak-veneer petals, the little structure appears inspired by the overlapping plates of an armadillo’s shell. But not at all. “The inspiration came from the material itself,” reports principal Aaron Schiller, who rigorously investigated the performative capacities of wood, exploring what shapes it lends itself to that are inherently structural while minimizing the impact of wind and rain. “To paraphrase Louis Kahn, we asked, ‘What does wood want to be?’” This resulted in the pavilion’s self-supporting carapace of individually steam-bent tile panels—an assemblage that combines locally sourced materials with modular production and CNC-machine customization to make it as attractive economically and environmentally as it is aesthetically. “We’re studying how to scale up this approach to a concert venue,” Schiller discloses, “as well as how to borrow its logic to create micro-homes for bees.” That’s honey to any environmentalist’s ear.

“While each tile is unique, installation requires simple labor repeated, like a mason laying a brick wall,” shares Schiller. Photography by Andy Tye/French+Tye.

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