Pavilion of the Commons: Valley Gardens, Brighton_2021

 

Having that really good conversation means closing the lids on our laptops, leaving our headphones at home and returning to physical meeting in safe ways.

But what does this mean in our current world?

Where is safe, what is permitted and how do we reconnect with friends, family and colleagues, or meet for the first time in ways that support the subtlety and nuance of person-to-person dialogue which takes place in the same physical space with others?

These are questions we have been exploring over the last 12 months, while waiting for approval to resume the student-led Pavilions of the Commons project in the University of Brighton’s School of Architecture and Design.

2021 will see the conclusion of the extended AHRC funded, design-make project which was initiated in autumn 2019 by students from studio 06 on the undergraduate architecture programme. Installation will be in Brighton’s Valley Gardens as part of the wider community engagement programme within the Wastes and Strays interdisciplinary research project. This project is specifically investigating aspects of common or common-like spaces within or adjacent to urban areas.

The proposals for Brighton’s Pavilion of the Commons have been developed with students and respond to the original design brief given in 2019. More recently the brief was reinterpreted to provide an adaptable structure to accommodate conversations between 3 individuals offering varying degrees of enclosure and privacy, while acknowledging the need to provide a socially-distanced, safe environment for meeting.

 

The design proposal for supporting the really good 3-way conversation builds on principles elicited from the conversation chair, or love seat, as otherwise known, which was conceived in France during the 19th Century.

Conversation chair,  J. H. Belter (1850–60)

The seats in the conversation chair are connected in a serpentine configuration allowing an element of adjacency for discreet conversation without the separation which is created across a table or in a facing arrangement. In keeping with appropriate etiquette of the time, the arrangement additionally prevents close physical contact by virtue of the shared armrest cleverly doubling as an elegant barrier of sorts.

 

Our interpretation for the 3-way conversation structure adopts a radial configuration with separate access for each sitter and combines the benefits of adjacency with potential for adjustment of each of the 3 segments to provide physical distancing and always maintaining orientation of the seat away from the direction of other sitters.

These measures echo the aims of the historic conversation chair for preventing contact while allowing conversational proximity, addressing the necessary current concern for mitigating risks of airborne particle transmission.

 

Components for each of the 3 segments of the temporary structure will be CNC cut, offering a kit of parts for assembly during the community engagement events programme which is scheduled for the summer of 2021 in Valley Gardens.