Kirstenbosch Untamed Pavilion
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JUNE 2010 - MARCH 2012
Exploring the lost balance between humankind and nature UNTAMED is an unfolding and evolving collaborative response by sculptor Dylan Lewis, architect Enrico DAFFONCHIO and psychologist, psychiatrist and writer Ian McCallum, chosen by Kirstenbosch as the Garden's 2010 project. The year-long exhibition explores ideas around the importance of the natural world to humankind's psyche. It develops the notion that there may be painful psychological and spiritual consequences of mankind's destruction of wilderness and natural habitats.
Dylan's sculptures explore the "wild" nature within and without us, as well as the battle of integrating this wildness into our self-definition of "humanness", Drawing on myth, Dylan "clothes" his humans with animal skull masks and animal attributes, blurring the boundaries between human and animal realms and evoking the notion of the shaman: the conveyor of disembodied truths. Animal skulls have been an important part of human ritual for over 50 000 years, embodying the notion of the protection of life. The immortal face of the skull is juxtaposed with temporal flesh and blood, drawing together the life and death forces of the natural world. In becoming one with their animal masks and features, Lewis's humans fleetingly reconnect with that which humankind lost in expelling our wild nature from our essential selves in order to define ourselves as "human". The transformation is a connection with and celebration of the vital energy, life force and spirit of all that is truly "wild".
Ian's poems and writings delve into humankind's original and unconscious connection with the earth, and indeed, all living things, as well as the need for human beings to reconnect with our "wild" aspects in order to save our habitat, the Earth, and thus ourselves.
Enrico's temporary pavilion structure is inspired by the shape of the spiral, representative of a journey and a ritual movement that is as ancient as our origins. The pavilion is an innovative example of the possibilities of integrating the natural world and ecologically intelligent design with exemplary contemporary design sensibilities. It incorporates a uniquely South African interpretation of the "living wall" or vertical garden concept. Suitable indigenous plants selected by Kirstenbosch's horticultural team fill recycled plastic containers held in a steel frame. The architecture of the structure and its materials furthers the contrast and tension between urban and natural environments.
In keeping with the theme of "wildness", the project has been conceived as an open, organic journey that will see Dylan working on and then placing monumentally-sized sculptures (currently on display in maquette form inside Enrico's pavilion) around the garden in a walking trail, interspersed with Ian's writings. It is foreseen that over the course of the year, artist's of different disciplines (ranging from documentary film making to land art and perhaps performance art) will add their interpretations of the theme and thus expand the exhibition's reach.
Award for Architecture Citation
A powerful concept based on the central theme of the inner conflict between the rational mind and our repressed wildness is given poetic expression in this collaboration between architect and sculptor. This sets up a dialogue and counterpoint between these two forces in the creation of this exhibition space in the unique natural setting of Kirstenbosch. There is a strong expression of materiality in the use of rusted steel and a spiralling green wall that lifts up from the earth to enclose and create space, countering the curving steel structures that reveal, in their rusted state, a sense of the overwhelming power of nature.
This design speaks of the intersection between art and architecture. The architect describes the structure as taking on what is the symbolic metaphor of the twisting path of a ritual tribal dance, and alludes to the transformation of the hunter into the animal being hunted at the centre of the vortex. In the choice of materials there has been a careful selection made on the basis of recyclability and ease of reassembly. This links into the conceptual notion of a cycle from birth through life to reuse, and this sense of impermanence and of temporality is carried through in the geometry, materials and light qualities of the structure to send a universal message that transcends place or culture.
The success of this project is manifested in the way that the general public has claimed it. This has led to its planned temporary existence to be extended.
Award for Excellence Citation
This exquisite folly, that blooms out of Kirstenbosch's magical nature reserve, is sadly and indefensibly a non-permanent structure. This is because there are permanent buildings within walking distance from the folly, which themselves are not the architectural masterpiece that the folly is, and yet they are left to remain standing, whereas the folly has already met its demise.
For any man-made structure to poetically and successfully complement the natural paradise that is the Kirstenbosch Nature Reserve, could only mean that somewhere somehow the architect had divine intuition. The structure does not attempt to be a natural mound or out-crop. Rather it stands as a synthetic steel-framed object in a garden; sensually cladded in foliage. Its presence in the garden is captivating precisely because of its obviously man-made quality that gravitates curious or loitering visitors towards it.
The marrying of architecture, sculpture, and philosophy is ingeniously 'plaited' and interwoven into one seamless gesture of fusional arts, crafts, science and literature. Visitors are greeted by a profoundly iconic rusted metal sculpture, whose colour and texture resonates in the structural framework of the folly. Movement within the structure is as magnetic as it is gravitational upon arrival from the surrounding garden. What would seem to be a quick-to-walk-through space becomes a hypnotic stroll as the interior climate and spatial experience causes visitors to pause, either to read the philosophical text or absorbingly study the sculptures within; if not admire the texture and treatment of the ground, the walls and hovering roof above. The atmosphere within is calming, meditative and grounding.
The overall experience of the folly is one of contrasts as experienced in the figure ground of Table Mountain as a natural backdrop to the miniature scale of the synthetic folly mound. Contrast is further expressed in the strikingly simple attention to detail against the joineries of the bold, chunky size of the materials. This contrast carries through in the spiral configuration of the rusted outward leaning metal columns against the foliage-cladded inward leaning walls; a breathtaking achievement.
All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.