(above) The Light Pavilion by Lebbeus Woods in collaboration with Christoph a. Kumpusch, in the Raffles City complex in Chengdu, China, by Steven Holl Architects.

The Light Pavilion is designed to be an experimental space, that is, one that gives us the opportunity to experience a type of space we haven’t experienced before. Whether it will be a pleasant or unpleasant experience; exciting or dull; uplifting or merely frightening; inspiring or depressing; worthwhile or a waste of time, is not determined in advance by the fulfillment of our familiar expectations, because we can have none, never having encountered such a space before. We shall simply have to go into the space and pass through it, perhaps more than once. That is the most crucial aspect of its experimental nature, and we—its transient inhabitants—are experimentalists in full partnership with the space’s designers. Each of our experiences will be unique, personal.

Set within a more known three-dimensional geometry and framed by it, the Light Pavilion exerts its differences. Most apparently, the elements defining it do not follow the known, rectilinear geometry of its architectural setting. The columns supporting stairs and viewing platforms obey a geometry defined by a dynamic of movement. Their deviation from the rectilinear grid releases its spaces from static stability and sets them in motion, encouraging visitors to explore.

The structural columns articulating the Pavilion’s interior spaces are illuminated from within and in the twilight and night hours visibly glow, creating a luminous space into which the solid architectural elements appear to merge. This quality is amplified by the mirrored surfaces enclosing the Pavilion, which visually extend its spaces infinitely. We might speculate that this new type of space stands somewhere between traditional architecture and the virtual environments of cyberspace, a domain we increasingly occupy in our homes and workplaces, but in the Light Pavilion with more emphasis on the physical than the mental or the virtual.

From distances across the city, the Pavilion is a beacon of light for the Raffles City complex. From within the buildings, and especially from the large public plaza between them, the glowing structure radiates subtly changing color symbolizing different holidays and times of day, month and year.

The space has been designed to expand the scope and depth of our experiences. That is its sole purpose, its only function. If one needed to give a reason to skeptics for creating such experimental spaces in the context of this large urban development project, it would be this: our rapidly changing world constantly confronts us with new challenges to our abilities to understand and to act, encouraging us to encounter new dimensions of experience.

Lebbeus Woods

Christoph a. Kumpusch


(below) Development of The Light Pavilion’s design:

Recent construction photograph:

Light and color studies:

LW and CaK

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