Shaped like a box with its flaps of cardboard spaying outwards towards the sky, the pavilion greets visitors with an image of themselves emerging from the colonnades into the courtyard of Palazzo Litta. Four doorways corresponding with the orientation and scale of those of the palace allow the courtyard to be traversed.
Architects Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen, whose practice Pezo von Ellrichshausen is based in the Chilean city of Concepcion, designed The Echo Pavilion for the fifth edition of The Litta Variations during Milan Design Week.
Previous editions of the exhibition had seen installations set on plinths in the courtyard, but Pezo and von Ellrichshausen wanted to celebrate the existing architecture instead of their own.
“When we received drawings and images of the building we found it beautiful so we wanted to make something as concentrated as possible and as invisible as possible precisely to highlight the existing conditions,” von Ellrichshausen told Domus.
“We've done this before – doing architecture within architecture – and it is really difficult because in general you get places like the Royal Academy that are already so loaded and so spectacular. You think, 'what can you do that is a provisional, short term thing that can complete with it?'," she continues. “– without falling into representation,” adds Pezo.
“Precisely because of the beauty of the palace itself, we thought we should not hide it or do anything hierarchical,” says von Ellrichshausen, “and that that's how this came about – a little device that actives what's already there.”
The mirrored surfaces also reflect the activity of the Salone, with visitors criss-crossing the courtyard on the way to exhibitions on the Piano Nobile, or stopping to look at the reflections of the architecture and themselves.
“It activates the activity of the Salone – all these people coming in, looking at each other or with themselves – it's a very narcissistic event, and so we're bouncing that back," says von Ellrichshausen. "In a way, because the mirror is supported by a very explicit structure, it becomes a backdrop for a theatre,” says Pezo.
The grandeur of the exterior exposes visitors, but inside the pavilion offers the same relief as the courtyard's colonnade. Concrete benches fitted into each corner offer a shady spot to sit – and to appreciate the small imperfections in the angles of the ageing palazzo against the geometry of the pavilion. The mirrored panels are mounted over a gridded structure made of laser-cut galvanised steel, with its own handmade irregularities.
“This in itself is a very perfect object, but then it's placed in a courtyard that is not square – there's no 90 degree angles, it's all slightly 'off', and that is evidenced in the reflection,” says von Ellrichshausen. “You try to find an exact point where it fits [the building] and you can never find. It's like a meter – it helps you see what the other thing is not.”
“In a way we are always trying to achieve a degree of certainty or unity to the formal structure, but the material consistency is always relevant to the circumstances of fabrication,” says Pezo. "Sometimes even the mistakes made by the workers are part of the grain, the human imprint. It doesn't have to be totally perfect, but the moment we have a very bold and simple and strong structure the fabrication of that idea in a way dilutes the rigidity of geometry.”
“What is beautiful is that you could describe the process as both industrial and artisanal, so it's handmade because all the welding is done one by one, but all the cuts are digital,” he continues. “It has this dimension of being very cutting edge in terms of technology but also very traditional.”
When the pavilion closes to the public on 14 April, it will be be rehomed by the owner of Flos, who has plans to install it as a folly on the edge of a lake in the grounds of his home.
- Echo Pavilion
- Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen
- Palazzo Litta
- Corso Magenta 24, Milan
- Open until:
- 14th April