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Fugitive Structures 2014

SCAF's annual architectural show offers two moments of Zen.
By Zacha Rosen
March 22, 2014
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By Zacha Rosen
March 22, 2014
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For over a decade, London's Serpentine Gallery has staged a series of unusual and wonderful summer pavilions. Each is put up, left out and pulled down over the course of a few months and designed by some of the biggest talents in architecture from around the world. Sydney's Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation has taken a leaf out of the Serpentine's book to stage its own series of strange architectural creations, starting with last year's beautiful Crescent House and following on with this year's double feature: Trifolium, put together by AR-MA, and Tomahawk // Archer Breakspear's contribution, Poly

Trifolium sits outside the gallery proper in SCAF's 'Zen garden'. And there's definitely a calm sensation under its six-toed frame. The distant bamboo and half-quiet of busy Paddington buzzes away in the background. From the outside, the structure looks somewhere between Utzon's Opera House and the awnings of a football stadium. Its skin is sleek and white, like a spaceship, the arch repeating three times with a dip slumping in the roof.

Inside is organic. The inner roof is black, actually a mesh of 152 laser-cut, stainless steel panels. They look slightly bulbous, layered and grape-like, curved plate over plate. Beneath the inner roof, darkly iridescent like a bug's wing, each arch captures different angles of the sun at an oblique angle. The day I visited, one side was somewhere between liquorice black and purple, another shifted between purple and rock brown, while the last caught the afternoon brilliance. Black, slate and gravel colours mixing with slabs of sunlight. It's an impressive structure, a bit like a cathedral shrunk down to the scale of its own model.

Inside the gallery proper is Poly. It's a parliament of moveable aluminium seating pods. Each about 2 metres tall, plushly lined inside, stark metal polish and sharp angles without. Visitors are meant to sit inside or move them around. Shifting and seated among them, their sharp, silver lines become more obvious and the things really loom: silent, sharp-edged and impersonal. They do feel ripe to be rearranged, but are so large they seem to drag the balance in the room around with them when you pull the chairs around yourself.

Trifolium and Poly are pretty low key. These aren't begging for a momentous cross-city expedition. Rather, a quiet visit on a jaunt through Paddington in their own small moment of zen.

SCAF is open Wednesdays to Saturdays, 12-5. Photo: Jacob Ring

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