Kochi Biennale Pavilion, a mansion built from debris, is a symbol of hope

Designed by Samira Rathod, it can be dismantled and put together again


Stone, mud, brick, thread, and debris from buildings—made from these is a graceful mansion that exposes a lot of ideas. This is the Biennale Pavilion designed by world-famous architect Samira Rathod at Fort Kochi's Cabral Yard. The stars of the night sky are visible through its roof which also lets the sun's rays in bit by bit during the day.

The 4,000-square-foot pavilion, with a roof sans concrete, is a wonder by its design. Named the 'Container of Hope', it stands in harmony with nature. The construction, which speaks volumes of possibilities from debris and about new ideas that could be made practical, came as a result of the hard work carried out by almost 60 labourers from Kochi, Kolkata, and Delhi across 30 days and nights while weathering the unexpected December rains.

"No material which cannot be reused has been used for the construction of the pavilion, and upon dismantling this temporary construction, no waste will reach the earth. This is its significance", said Samira. The four walls of the structure are filled with stones, pieces of brick, red stone, and debris from building construction. The floor is made of granite pieces, stone, and cement from quarries. The large roof above contains a layer of transparent plastic on which stones are plastered along with soil and mud.

samira-rathod Samira Rathod

"It is to protect the monitors and speakers in the pavilion that plastic had to be used on the roof,” said Samira. But this plastic sheet specially stitched at the Samira Rathod Atelier—Samira's architecture and interior design establishment in Mumbai—can be reused. The most attractive feature of the pavilion is the big glass shutters fixed on the walls. Neethu Lekshmi, Fenil Soni, and Kiran Keluskar, all of them architects at the Samira Rathod Design Atelier, stayed in Fort Kochi for a month overseeing the construction of the pavilion. The support of the organisers of the Kochi Muziris Biennale was also invaluable.

"There are two thought streams behind the construction of the Biennale Pavilion," says Samira. “One is the reuse of the remains of buildings. Second is the poetic nature of the construction. We see a building in its complete form. Normally the back-filling used in the walls or basement remains hidden. We had the desire to have a transparent construction. So this back-filling is visible from the outside. Biennale literally means taking new ideas to the public through the medium of arts.

After the Biennale, the pavilion can be completely dismantled and reconstructed at any other location according to requirements. "If more studies are carried out, and proper maintenance is given, such buildings can be used for a long time,” says Samira. The studio works within the pavilion have been done by Studio Motion Works.

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