Seattle, Washington is a long way off from Basel, Switzerland but architecture firm Olson Kundig — unofficial architectural ambassadors of the Pacific Northwest — made the long-haul trek to design the VIP space at Design Miami/. Their project, dubbed “Outpost Basel,” debuted on Tuesday at the opening of the fair and functions as a multinational collectors lounge for the duration of the fair, through June 21.
The pavilion’s design is predicated on the idea of contrast: it appears deceptively simple from a distance, but the structural complexity of the cube-shaped space is revealed upon closer inspection. Materials and architectural effects reflect the emphasis on duality: shaded and well-lit areas, dark materials placed against light ones.
Tom Kundig, who lead the design of the collectors lounge, was especially keen to use materials sourced from a wide variety of locales. Kundig has a longstanding affinity for commodity materials, and Outpost Basel is a reflection of his interest in repurposing quotidian elements to high-design effect. Wooden bricks supplied by Austrian company Schweighofer form the pavilion’s two adjoining volumes, one a semi-open space and one a taller solid box. The wood bricks that form the resulting structure were then finished with an ancient Japanese technique, Shou Sugi Ban, a woodburning method historically used to protect the material from decay and termites. After the wood is charred, cooled, cleaning and finished with natural oils, the material takes on a black hue that defines many of the pavilion’s bricks. Curiously, to achieve this unusual effect, Kundig worked closely with a factory in Romania to produce the darkened bricks on site.
The result, as the architect sees it, is nothing less than a success precisely for all the contrasts involved in the project’s creation and realized design. “It’s a great honor to make this space for Design Miami/, and to work in Basel, Switzerland. We each carry many influences with us — both my parents are Swiss, although I am American,” he explains. “With Outpost, I wanted to explore this idea through bringing different elements together in Basel. I like to mix old techniques and robust materials with innovative methods of making, so there will be crafted ironwork from Seattle, and amazing wood from Austrian firm Schweighofer.” The pavilion, like its design, brings together diverse and varied elements: within its confines, conversations between myriad visitors to the fair take place thanks to the work of myriad materials.
— Anna Kats (@coldwarcasual)
Image courtesy Olson Kundig.