Architect Turns A Giant Smile Into A Public Exhibition

Architect Turns A Giant Smile Into A Public Exhibition

The structure offers visitors a new perspective of London and creates an immersive environment that integrates structure, surface, space and light

Marielle Castillo
  • 29 september 2016

For the 2016 London Design Festival, architect Alison Brooks created The Smile, an urban pavilion in the shape of a high upside down arc. Supported by the American Hardwood Export Council and made in partnership with the University of the Arts London, the 34-meter-long structure takes the shape of a giant smile, and was created with 12 panels of cross-laminated timber (CLT).


The four-sided piece curves upward to its two open ends, allowing light to shine through and across its curved floor. Visitors are invited to enter the structure through a door positioned halfway its length. Once inside, they can walk up in either direction towards viewing balconies located in the two raised ends.


Perforations in the walls bring in sunlight and at night, when the interior is lit up, the pavilion turns into a giant lantern. To prevent it from rocking, the piece is anchored to a wooden cradle filled with 20 tons of steel counterweights.


The entire complex structure is free of the conventions of inhabitable architecture and pushes the limits of what’s possible. It also demonstrates that hardwood CLT can perform as a structural material and that it can change the face of construction.

The Smile is located at the Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground at Chelsea College of Art in southwest London, and will be on show until October 12, 2016.

The Smile

+2016 London Design Festival
+American Hardwood Export Council
+hardwood CLT
+urban pavilion

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