The Embassy for Refugees, commissioned for Celebrating Sanctuary London, on the South Bank is an art/design project which blurs the boundaries between architecture, art practice and human rights advocacy, as a cross-disciplinary endeavour exploring concepts of sanctuary and representation. commissed by Celebrating Sanctuary London
Nestled within Bernie Spain Gardens next to the Oxo Tower, the organic timber structure will form a poetic expression of refuge whilst providing a platform for humanitarian issues in its use. Taking form as an experimental public pavilion, the Embassy juxtaposes an intimate space inspired by nature with hosting an exciting programme of academic debates and celebratory performances right in the midst of London’s iconic South Bank.
The realisation of the unusual and highly bespoke structure was developed through a richly collaborative process. Designer Natasha Reid worked closely with engineers Arup and fabricators Grassroot Garden to achieve the ambition of the artistic intent, after she had developed the concept design through workshops with refugee children at Salusbury World. An art installation inspired by the pavilion’s architecture and Embassy concept has been created with young people in a dedicated workshop at Capital City Academy.
Arup has collaborated with the artiste to design and experiment with the formation of the unusual and highly surprising structure constructed from OSB. Using 3D modelling young engineers from Arup have utilised a high tech process to make a low tech solution achievable. Striving to overcome the design challenges to deliver the artiste’s vision, the Pavilion will be simple to construct, deconstruct & reconstruct, to meet the requirements of the fast paced programme.
Built on an incredible amount of support and the coming together of several ethical organizations, the resulting pavilion far exceeds the scope of the original commission as the reach of the project expanded exponentially in the months preceding the installation. The outcome hopes to illustrate how simple materials can be crafted to produce an innovative, complex and elegant structure which dignifies and embodies a humanitarian agenda.
The Embassy for Refugees project forms an ongoing line of investigation into how architecture and art mediates relations between individuals and organizations. Originally developed as a post-graduate thesis project at London Metropolitan University in 2010, Natasha Reid since developed the Embassy for Refugees concept as an arts project, exhibited widely as a catalyst for discussion and debate. She presented her initial theoretical proposition as part of the Design Diplomacy programme at Ambika P3 last year, alongside acclaimed architects Sir Terry Farrell, Tony Fretton and Steve Quinlan as a radical reinterpretation of the embassy typology.
An Experiential Expression
Constructed and curated as a public pavilion, the current incarnation of the Embassy for Refugees takes a strongly phenomenological approach, drawing upon references of tree canopies, caves and cocoons to explore concepts of refuge. It juxtaposes contrasting characteristic of enclosure and openness, permanence and transience. The dynamic form fluctuates on approach, at once solid and substantial but also delicate and transparent.
Like an oyster shell, the external structure of the pavilion is tough and robust, supporting an ethereal inner lining. The sharp contrast between the solidity, strength and precision of the timber framework and the rippling, translucent plastic heightens each materials’ particular characteristics. The language of juxtaposition is further emphasized at a detailed level, with the irregularly textured quality and rich, golden colour of the SmartPly against the grid-like pattern and reflective, whiteness of the scaffold sheet..
Created & Designed by Natasha Reid Engineered & Detailed by Arup Constructed by Grassroot Garden From 16th June