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Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11

This summer 2016, Zurich will host the eleventh edition of Manifesta, one of the world’s most important biennials for contemporary art. The event’s central presentation platform will be set up on Lake Zurich, near Bellevue – the Pavillon of Reflections, a floating island with an open-air cinema and integrated swimming pool, which will constitute a new temporary landmark in the city.

Pavilion-of-Reflections-for-Manifesta-11-By-Studio-Tom-Emerson-03-759x569 Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11 / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

“The aim of this architectural statement is to create a new, central location for the 100-day duration of the art biennial: the pavilion will offer space for dialogue and reflection on the artworks created for the biennial and will also act as a meeting place for participants and visitors. It is being made in co-operation with 30 architecture students from ETH Zurich, led by Studio Tom Emerson: being designed and realized in a collective process by the students themselves.” – Manifesta 11

Pavilion-of-Reflections-for-Manifesta-11-By-Studio-Tom-Emerson-04-759x506 Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11 / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

“Pavilion of Reflections” is the name of the temporary pavilion that will be situated at Bellevue Square. The wood structure, which is being designed and built by ETH students under professor Tom Emerson, places a large LED screen next to a pool opposite a covered spectator stand. During the day the pavilion acts as a place of recreation and meeting, while the bar next to the pool means at night the pavilion serves as a place to reflect on the artworks seen in other parts of the city during the eleventh iteration of Manifesta.

Pavilion-of-Reflections-for-Manifesta-11-By-Studio-Tom-Emerson-05-759x569 Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11 / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

The students developed a collective working process and the coordination and communication required. The greatest challenge is also the project’s greatest potential: to translate the shared design into a built work. After an initial ideas competition between smaller groups of students, teams worked at different scales — from its setting in the city and the lake basin, through to 1:1 scale prototypes — to bring the many design-related, technical and organisational dimensions of the project together to in a multi-layered and ultimately buildable architectural project. Apart from the design process, the construction techniques in particular will influence the final design of the Pavilion. The Pavilion of Reflections is made entirely of wood; the way the material is dealt with is an essential part of the design and construction process. Following the detailed design phase, from January 2016 onwards the Pavilion was prefabricated and assembled by the students in a production hall in Zurich.

Pavilion-of-Reflections-for-Manifesta-11-By-Studio-Tom-Emerson-06-759x569 Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11 / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

“We have been invited to work with students to design and build a Pavilion of Reflections floating on Lake Zurich as the reception building for the European art biennale. The Pavilion of Reflections will be the meeting point for showing art works produced in the city during Manifesta as well as acting as a public swimming bath during the day. Our students have designed and built a timber island consisting a public bath, surrounded by a cinema with tribune seating, a bar, sundeck and tower. The structure floats on steel caissons.” – Studio Tom Emerson.

Pavilion-of-Reflections-for-Manifesta-11-By-Studio-Tom-Emerson-07-750x1000 Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11 / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

“The location on the lake, and thus in nature, … creates a certain distance from the workplaces in the city which are the focus of the exhibition. The possibilities for recreation and leisure offered by the ‘Pavillon of Reflections’ represent a clear contrast with the artworks in Manifesta … The fact that art reception is based thoroughly in the senses will be further amplified by the fact that the site of reflection is floating on water without firm ground, exposed to the sun and rain.” – Manifesta curator Christian Jankowski said.

Pavilion-of-Reflections-for-Manifesta-11-By-Studio-Tom-Emerson-08-759x569 Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11 / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

Manifesta 11:

The Pavillon of Reflections as a Collaborative Effort:

This blueprint is a response to Manifesta curator Christian Jankowski‘s call for the students to design a pavilion on the lake outfitted with an LED screen, spectator seats, a pool and a bar. The nature of the pavilion is determined in large measure by the collective way the students work and the co-ordination this requires.

Pavilion-of-Reflections-for-Manifesta-11-By-Studio-Tom-Emerson-10-759x569 Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11 / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

The biggest challenge is to turn the design into a real working structure. Following a competition among the students, the most promising ideas were selected and developed. Different groups worked on different scales – from the integration of the pavilion into the city of Zurich and the lake basin, to 1:1 prototypes – in order to combine the various design, technical and organisational dimensions of the project into a multifaceted and achievable architectural plan. “Our team represents all the relevant areas of architectural production. From the development of the concept, through detailed planning and construction of 1:1 models, to logistical organisation and documentation with our own little newspaper, in which the project is addressed from a variety of perspectives,” says Boris Gusic of the ETH Studio Tom Emerson. In addition to the design process, the production techniques will also have a profound effect on the ultimate character of the pavilion. The Pavillon of Reflections will be built solely out of wood; working with this material is an essential aspect of the design and construction process.

Pavilion-of-Reflections-for-Manifesta-11-By-Studio-Tom-Emerson-11-750x1000 Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11 / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

For many of the students, the Pavillon of Reflections is their first opportunity to realise their own project, with all the possibilities and challenges that come along with it. Following the planning phase, the pavilion will be prefabricated – also by the students – in a hangar near Zurich in January 2016 and assembled on the lake in the springtime.

Pavilion-of-Reflections-for-Manifesta-11-By-Studio-Tom-Emerson-12-759x840 Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11 / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

The ETH Studio Tom Emerson has already designed and realised a number of collaborative projects with students, including several temporary pavilions and the Belvedere in the Zurich district of Zollikon. The Manifesta project continues this tradition but goes far beyond the scale of previous projects in terms of size and complexity.

Pavilion-of-Reflections-for-Manifesta-11-By-Studio-Tom-Emerson-17-750x1000 Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11 / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

Moments of Contemplation and Reflection:

“We conceived the Pavillon of Reflections as a floating, multifunction platform with a giant LED screen, a stand for spectators, a swimming pool and a bar as the central forum for the mediatisation and reflection of all the new artistic productions at Manifesta 11”, says Christian Jankowski about the project. “In the daytime, the Pavillon of Reflections will function as an urban island, a meeting place and open-air swimming area, while at night it will be a venue to reflect on the artworks presented. Films will be screened documenting the creative processes behind the new artworks as well as the exhibitions in the various ‘satellites’ – in other words – those Manifesta exhibition venues that are not existing art museums, such as a police station, a bakery or a sewage treatment facility.” To make this possible, film teams from the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK), together with the artists and their hosts, will document key moments in the production phase. These contributions will be moderated by highschool students from Zurich, who will accompany Manifesta 11 as ‘art detectives’. Jankowski wanted to create a neutral venue for reception that has not already been influenced by a Zurich institution.” – Jankowski add.

Pavilion-of-Reflections-for-Manifesta-11-By-Studio-Tom-Emerson-21-759x569 Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11 / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

The Functions of the Pavillon of Reflections:

The film screenings and the public programme will be supplemented during the day by the open-air swimming area. The spectators’ stand – on which visitors to the open-air cinema will take their seats in the evenings – also offers the opportunity for people to spend some time there in the daytime. This use constitutes the spatial structure of the design. Its multi-functionality continues in the evenings when the sun deck at the poolside serves as an extension of the space for spectators. In turn, the pool at the centre of the pavilion functions as an extension of the screen: the LED screen will bathe the platform in light, and the strikingly large screen will communicate with the city and locate the pavilion on the lake, while the bar provides the swimmers and Manifesta 11 visitors with drinks and snacks.

Pavilion-of-Reflections-for-Manifesta-11-By-Studio-Tom-Emerson-22-759x506 Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11 / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

Zurich and its Public Swimming Areas: the Badis

Great importance is given to bathing culture Zurich. The construction of public swimming areas can be traced back to the ancient Romans. For a long time, many apartments in Zurich did not have their own bathrooms. Up to 1900, 20 public baths could be found in the city. During the subsequent boom in bathing, a visit to a public baths became a staple of daily life in Zurich. Today, Zurich has a high density of public swimming areas barely matched by any other city – based on population – with some 30 lake or river swimming areas and almost 20 other public swimming pools. Thus, the venues, known as Badis are always social places, distinctive architectural monuments within the cityscape, in which a highly differentiated, function-orientated and urban community that spans generations, collectively enjoys a moment of recreation. A platform for Zurich society to disrobe, removing status symbols in an egalitarian encounter. Following from this tradition, the Pavillon of Reflections will offer a place for both encounters and education, a place for both passing the time with physical activity and with intellectual pursuits.

Pavilion-of-Reflections-for-Manifesta-11-By-Studio-Tom-Emerson-29-759x506 Pavilion of Reflections for Manifesta 11 / Studio Tom Emerson

© Studio Tom Emerson

Project Data:

Project name: Pavilion of Reflections
Location: Lake Zürich, Switzerland
Coordinates: 47.364554, 8.544376
Type: Pavilion, Meeting / Conference / Banquet
Project Area: approx 1,000 sqm
Event Period: 11 June to 18 September 2016 – Manifesta 11, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art
Status: Built
Completion Date/Year: 2016

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Manifesta Foundation – Herengracht 474, 1017 CA Amsterdam, Netherlands
Architects: Studio Tom Emerson – ETH Zürich – Department of Architecture hil e62.1 Stefano, Franscini, Platz 5 ch–8093 Zürich, Switzerland
Manufacturers: Blumer Lehmann


  • Staff: Prof. Tom Emerson, Boris Gusic, Adrian Heusser, Celine Bessire, Daniel Ganz, Iela Herrling, Christoph Junk, Guillaume Othenin-Girard, Philip Shelley, Lucy Styles, Thomasine Wolfensberger, Nemanja Zimonjic
  • Student Team: Christina Albert, Lorenzo Autieri, Vera Bannwart, Alexander Bradley, Arthur de Buren, Jonathan Egli, Josephine Eigner, Kathrin Füglister, Michelle Geilinger, Rudolf Goldschmidt, Dimitri Haefliger, Hannes Hermanek, Donia Jornod, Ricardo Joss, Thierry Jöhl, Phillipp Kraus, Roberto Leggeri, Lukas Loosli, Jonas Meylan, Karin Pfeifer, Jeremy Ratib, Nancy Reuland, Daria Rey, Hanna Schlösser, Valentina Sieber, Anna Maria Stallmann, Kaspar Stöbe, Anastasia Vaynberg, Claartje Vuurmans, Sonja Widmer
  • ETH Zürich team: Philip Ursprung, gta, ETH Zürich / Marcel Aubert, Block Research Group ETH Zürich / Alessandro Tellini, Raplab D-Arch ETH Zürich / Brigitte Schiesser, Legal Dept. ETH Zürich


  • Hansbeat Reusser, Holzbaubüro Reusser GmbH / Christoph Müller, Holzbaubüro Reusser GmbH / Andreas Kocher, Holzbaubüro Reusser GmbH / Simon Rehm, Holzbaubüro Reusser GmbH / Samuel Jucker, Willy Stäubli Ing. AG / Robert Jockwer Institut für Baustatik und Konstruktion IBK ETH Zürich


  • Forestry: Kanton Zürich, Baudirektion, Amt für Landwirtschaft und Natur, Erwin Schmid, Waldwirtschaftsverband Zürich, Vereinigung der Zürcher Waldbesitzer, Kaspar Reutimann
  • Timber Processing: Martin Keller, Sägerei Konrad Keller AG / Holzwewrkstoffe Notter AG / Katharina Lehmann, Blumer-Lehmann AG
  • Timber construction: Hannes Jedele, Handholzwerk / Falco Horb, Handholzwerk / Laura Peisker, Handholzwerk / Karl Rühle
  • Tools: Robert Bosch AG Power Tools / Raplab D-ARCH / Alessandro Tellini / Daniel Bachmann
  • Mechanical Fastening: Beat Ruch, SFS Unimarkt AG / Thomas Graber, SFS Unimarket AG
  • Roof Cladding: Gaudenz Wieland, Eternit AG / Ueli Schweizer, Eternit AG / Pierre Jelovcan , Preisig AG
  • Steel Prefabrication: Tanja Pichler, Stahlbau Pichler / Daniel Raffeiner, Stahlbau Pichler AG / Albert Hofer, Stahlbaupichler AG
  • Steel Assembly: Samuel Jucker, Willy Stäubli Ing AG
  • Scaffolding: Fix Gerüstbau AG / Beat and Gina Ingold
  • Stadt Zürich: Alex Schilling, Kultur Stadt Zürich / Werner Klaus, Wasserschutzpolizei Stadt Zürich
  • Lake: Beat Schwengeler, Zürcher Segelclub / Thomas Hartmann, Zürichsee-Schifffahrtsgesellschaft AG / Conny Hürlimann, Zürichsee-Schifffahrtsgesellschaft AG / Marco Rizzi, Zürichsee-Schifffahrtsgesellschaft AG
  • Fabrication Hall: Firma Geilinger AG / Andreas Gerster, Geilinger AG / Thomas Rickenbach, Geilinger AG
  • Construction Site: Kibag
  • Special Things: Kunstgiesserei St. Gallen AG (St. Gallen)
  • Film maker: Gavin Emerson, Holy Cow Productions
  • Helping Hands: David Moser, Student ETH Zürich / Noël Picco, Student ETH Zürich / Lena Stolze, Student ETH Zürich / Lukas Fink, Student ETH Zürich / Micha Ringger, Student ETH Zürich / Milena Buchwalder, Student ETH Zürich / Beatriz Klettner Soler, Student ETH Zürich / Deborah Suter, Student ETH Zürich / Sebastian Oswald, Student ETH Zürich / Daniel Schneider, Student ETH Zürich / Tibor Rossi, Student ETH Zürich / Laszlo Blaser, Student ETH Zürich / Angela Burkar

Text Description: © Courtesy of Studio Tom Emerson, Manifesta 11
Images: © Studio Tom Emerson

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