The Bartlett School of Architecture


Building-block pavilion wins Tallinn Architectural Biennale competition

13 December 2017

The Bartlett's Gilles Retsin has won first prize in Tallinn for his adaptable, lego-like pavilion.

Gilles Retsin's winning pavilion at the Tallinn Architectural Biennale 2017

Gilles Retsin, Programme Director of Architectural Design MArch, has won an international competition at the Tallinn Architectural Biennale 2017 with his experimental pavilion. The competition challenged participants to create a temporary outdoor installation using the fabrication capacities of the Tallinn wooden house manufacturers.

Gilles' answer to this brief – a plywood pavilion constructed from lego-like building blocks – was praised by the jury for its ‘outstanding aesthetic’ and ability to ‘question current beliefs and trends in architecture’. In particular, the proposal critiques the traditional construction industry, whose need for thousands of different parts results in a slow, expensive and inaccessible process.

To counter this problem, Gilles’ pavilion was based on just a few lego-like pieces that can function as numerous building parts and support loads far heavier than their own weight. For the Tallinn Biennale, the entire structure was fabricated in the Estonian capital with local materials and assembled with basic tools in just four days. The aim of the project was to inspire architects to develop digital fabrication and mass-housing further.

Gilles Retsin said of the project:

This pavilion wants to be understood as part of a larger whole, as a unit in a mass-housing system. The pavilion is never finished: its stackable and repeatable elements mean that it remains open and adaptable.

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