Aptly referred to as a 'Living Pavilion', Toronto-based Architect and conservationist, David J. Argo designed the building with consideration of every living system inhabiting the area. Focusing on the "biological productivity" of the site, the principal aspects of the pavilion are rooted in restoring the features of the natural ecosystem while implementing long-term preservation for the ecology.
For this building, located in Norfolk County, Ontario, the natural features of the landscape inform every aspect of its construction.
Norfolk, a rural municipality in Southwestern Ontario, was once one of the world's premier tobacco growing areas but is now gaining recognition as one of the most bio-diverse regions in Canada.
The Tallgrass Prairie Pavilion, comprising a compact 600 square feet, rests on a 95 acre former tobacco farm home to several rare North American ecosystems. The site encompasses tallgrass prairies, black oak savannah, and the Norfolk Sand Plain, a generally flat landscape with a thick layer of sand which is the result of glacier impact. There is also evidence of historic First Nation encampments on the property.
With such a multifaceted habitat, the architect combined the clarity of modernist design with sustainable building practices. Incorporating only the essentials, the building provides protection from wind, rain, and heat with noninvasive systems (there are no electrical systems and lighting is supplied through solar energy). Architectural elements from local barns and greenhouses were adapted in the design the light-weight structure. For example, barn doors help adjust air flow during the warmer and cooler months.
Featuring a long narrow layout, the pavilion is angled on an east-west axis to maximize protection from the wind and use the sun's heat most effectively. Sliding polycarbonate panels from a local greenhouse manufacturer open the space and while still providing light when closed.
Inspired and driven by the necessary controlled burns that maintain the ecology of the site, the Pavilion structure is sealed with charred wood. Both symbolically in-touch with the cycle of the land as well as functional, using the traditional Japanese technique of charring wood (Shou-sugi-ban) serves an eco-alternative to the use of paint while creating a fire-resistant exterior. All the wood was milled on the site reflecting yet another component of this compelling ecological restoration.
Constructed by 29 people - 26 of them living within 30 kilometres of the site - with around 80 to 86 per cent of materials sourced within a 50 kilometre radius, the construction supported both local business while minimizing energy consumption. The commitment to eco-sustainability was addressed into every facet of this project, creating a unique experience between site, place, and dweller while protecting the endangered species who call this Home.
To view more of David Agro's work visit ID Workshop Inc. where he and architect Zuzanna Krykorka facilitate and design specific and unique projects on sustainability.
All photos courtesy of Tom Arban and David Agro
Written and Researched by Sara Nicole England, undergraduate of OCAD University, Criticism and Curatorial Practice.