Surrealestate Pavilion

National Gallery of Victoria
Competition Entry

Brief: To design a temporary public pavilion for the Grollo Equiset Garden adjoining the National Gallery of Victoria Pavilion, for the 2017 open call for submissions.

Challenges: Our desire to explore current inequalities in the market driven housing solutions while making it engaging and playful for public consumption

Solutions: The suspension of translucent, whimsical, stylised forms of familiar Australian Housing typologies as inflated architecture hovering above the heads of patrons, creating light-play over a series of reflection pools and an interactive DIY housing design kit. 

Highlights: Exploring issues that govern how we house ourselves and design homes for clients in a playfully and engaging way.

Design Intent

Surrealestate explores a historic cross section of common domestic architectural typologies found across Australia from the 19th Century to present day.
These typologies are all linked by a common thread; they were designed to provide affordable housing for the median household size and income of the day.

However in the current property market how much does on-sale, lending practices and tax incentives shape the homes we live in? Creating a design by numbers effect…5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a media room, alfresco dining, 2 car lock-up-garage ….. With this housing prices have inflated, where dwelling price to income ratio has risen from 2:1 in the 60’s to more than 6:1 in the current market.

Surrealestate invites visitors to the Gardens to explore, reflect and engage with each other on existing housing types, and through play and interactive design tools, alternatives are imagined.
The work consists of five housing typologies made from quilted triangulated plastic up-cycled from old shopping bags, bonded together to form an air-tight volume. They are filled with helium and tethered to provide a canopy over two reflection ponds via rope ladders and fine wire tie-downs.

There they sway, dance and glow in response to the surrounding environment. During the day they catch the sunlight and cast a dream-like mottled light over the public gathering space beneath. As visitors cross the mote to the Gardens, their eyes are drawn by the movement and glow as the volumes catch the light. Beneath the canopy a public gathering space is carved out between two shallow reflection ponds, bounded by forgiving inflated edges, these create opportunities for sitting, interaction and reflection in the dappled light. As one approaches the ponds, the scaled housing models tower overhead, tantalisingly close but consciously out of reach. Suspended rope ladders emphasise the drama.

As visitors continue around the first pond they are able to pass between them and enter the fantastical world beneath architectural clouds. Here you are met with a curious assortment of lightweight geometric building elements, inviting the public to re-imagine home and house for themselves. An electronic display is mounted at the northern entry to provide visitors with information about the work & record their design workshop creations via a remote camera.

At night the volumes glow and illuminate the space for evening functions and community design workshops. The lights are interactive, hidden in the ponds they shine upwards to illuminate the floating structures above, changing colour with participants movements and sound. Sandbag furniture in this area also suggests an urgency in housing affordability and promotes material innovation.
Through the act of play Surrealestate invites the public to an open discourse about the homes, neighbourhoods and cities we live in, a platform to challenge the housing industry and dream up fantastic alternatives.