This mirrored structure by Amsterdam based DHL Architecture was a response to a competition by Dutch collective Atelier Malkovich calling for architects to create an innovative and functional artist’s pavilion. Stressing the artist’s changing role in society – as well as changing ways of working – the competition asked architects to think about how artists operate in the modern world, to accommodate their need for space.
And this mirrored, camouflaged wall structure – named Archive – provides such a place for contemplation, creativity and inspiration. With its reflective shell it blocks out the outside, whilst the long, uninterrupted space inside is a place where the artist can walk, roam, invent and be engrossed in his own world. “Strange and impenetrable to the unaware, only the owner knows its secrets. The large cabinet doors are almost invisible and the entrance must be discovered… A narrow slit allows the passer by a brief opportunity to glimpse the garden and at a stretch they can peer over the parapet while the owner is tucked away underneath,” say the architects.
This play on interior/exterior, and the dialogue that the structure enacts with those who approach it, asks us to think about the way we interact with the buildings around us. As if denying its own existence to those not hidden within its walls, it reflects itself back on outside viewers, who have nothing left but to contemplate their own place in the surrounding environment.
There is something very Dan Graham about this; only Graham’s work was more interested in the psychological effect of architecture on us. His reflective outdoors structures were never designed to be inhabited, and this precise negation of an inside/outside that we seek from architecture reflects all focus onto the viewer in an act of uneasy voyeurism and self-perception. Whereas Graham’s structures need the presence of the external viewer to be complete, this DHL Architecture structure enacts a more conventional dialogue of inclusion-exclusion, or interior-exterior.