Design Week meets Pernilla & Asif to talk about the Olympic Pavilion

Despite having only officially opened their practice this year, young architect duo Pernilla & Asif (Pernilla Ohrstedt and Asif Khan) are certainly making waves.

Pernilla and Asif
Pernilla and Asif

Form their Cloud installation, which debuted at Miami Design Festival before being taken to London’s York Hall; to their Future Memory Pavilion, commissioned by the British Council Singapore; to the Harvest Furniture for the Design Museum, it’s hard to believe they’re just 30 and 31 years old, with just five people in their very new studio.

Cloud York Hall 2011

Source: Pernilla and Asif. Photo James Harris

Cloud York Hall 2011

In May this year the duo was appointed to a huge commission for a huge event by an enormous brand – Coca Cola’s Olympic Pavilion. The building will combine stunning experimental architecture and sound technology, enabling the structure itself to effectively become a musical instrument.

Future Memory Pavillion 2011

Source: Pernilla and Asif

Future Memory Pavillion 2011

Inspired by Coca Cola’s Move to the Beat campaign, the building will use red and white (obviously) ‘cushions’ around its outside, each of which has its own sound recorded from one of the young athletes, for instance the squeak of a trainer or the boing of a ping-pong ball.

Visitors are able to ‘play’ the pavilion by interacting with the sounds; creating their own ‘beat for London 2012’ by remixing sounds of Olympic sports captured for an anthem created by the omnipresent Mark Ronson.

Design Week met up with Pernilla & Asif to have a peek at a model of the Pavilion and find out more.

Pernilla and Asif with the model
Pernilla and Asif with the model

Design Week: So what will the Pavilion be used for? What are the aims of it?

Pernilla Ohrstedt: It’s a showcasing venue. This year they decided to make it a monument to celebrate youth and that was part of the brief – to make the pavilion that would encompass youth and inspire young Britain.

DW: Were you briefed to use sound? How will it work?

PO: No, but they wanted something that would encourage a beat in conceptual terms, so we said lets just make building that has a beat.

Asif Khan: Each of the cushions is embedded with a sound sample recorded from around the world by Mark Ronson and remixed into a track. We thought about a building as an instrument and how you can engage with it and participate in it. It’s got a narrative: the architectural journey and the sound journey run in parallel, so as you go around the building they both unravel.

PO: We’re extracting bits and pieces from the track. The sports sounds are recomposed and recomposed endlessly throughout.

DW: What else will we see in the Pavilion?

PO: There will be a lighting installation in the interior of the space. We want to have a really experimental, incredible experience on the exterior then also provide a space to voice it in the interiors.

AK:  There’s no overt branding- this is something Coke have never done before. There’s no logo – they’re incredibly discreet, so we’re using the iconic strength of colour.

DW: What will it be used for after the event?

AK:  Afterwards it’ll be dismantled but we’re working to create a strategy that will enable elements to recombine to make small bits of architecture. We’re now partnering with organisations so that these things have a life beyond it. We’re looking at reconfiguring the elements somewhere in one of the Olympic boroughs – Hackney, Tower Hamlets or Newham.

PO: They’re all repetitive elements, so we’re hoping to recompose them into a clash of three-dimensional paces and sounds.


DW: With your studio based in East London, do you feel this gives you more of an affinity with an Olympic project?

PO:  It’s quite amazing to be able to do a really global project and really local project – you never really get that opportunity, it’s usually one or the other.

AK: It’s our back yard. We felt quite confident when we designed it to push on and be bold with what we thought it should be like and what the concept should be.

PO: [The Pavilion] is about what London’s about – it’s not sweet and careful; it had to have that experimental, loud nature to it.

AK:  We’re a London practice and it’s good to show that architecture can be interesting and it doesn’t need to be esoteric. It would be great to encourage a new generation of young London kids who wouldn’t usually get into architecture.

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