RSUA / JP Corry Multi-Comfort Pavilion Design Competition: Winner!, Shane Birney Architects

21 October 16

The brief structured a challenge to design a low energy building with the highest level of thermal comfort, acoustics, visual aesthetics and air quality. Rather than adapt the environment to meet our expectations of ‘comfort’ we suggested that we should adapt ourselves to the environment. 

Our bodies have an average of 60,000 miles of arteries, capillaries and veins. These blood vessels have little muscles that help pump blood and provide oxygen throughout the body. Without exercising these muscles by moving from hot to cold and cold to hot their condition will become weakened and eventually atrophy. Being warm all the time puts unnecessary pressure on the heart to pump blood solely, emphasizing the increasing daily stress we all experience. 

Given the choice, we will almost unanimously choose to be warm rather than cold. We associate comfort with warmth, but what is comfort and what does it mean to be comfortable? Author Dr. Christopher Ryan claims “comfort should be positive and pleasurable, not just the absence of discomfort.” This calls for a redefinition of what we currently think being comfortable is. The mistake of modern society is believing that every slightly negative sensation needs to be filtered out. When we do this we are ignoring our bodies and don’t learn to adapt.

The solid rectangular timber form represents the rigid body of thought suggesting that modern human beings should live environmentally comfortable daily lives. The subtracted organic sculptural form represents a new approach that considers us as biological beings that can adapt to any environment so that we can enjoy the best experience anywhere. Its situation in Botanic Gardens allows it to be circulated with fresh outdoor air.

The pavilion has two small rooms with opposing extremes in temperature. One room will be a chilly -10°C and the other a searing 40°C.The Warmflow Ground Source Heat Pump enables the hot and cold rooms to be heated and cooled with minimal intervention this reducing operating costs, whilst also standing alone without the need for fossil fuels. Exploring the pavilion, moving from hot to cold or cold to hot, exercises our blood vessel muscles regaining and optimizing our ability to hand cold and heat. In this respect the pavilion unconventionally addresses our perception of thermal comfort.

Pavilion design by Aileen McConaghie, Kate Doherty and Colin McClelland.

Architects' Journal: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/aileen-mcconaghie-wins-contest-for-belfasts-own-serpentine-pavilion/10012964.article?blocktitle=News-big-picture&contentID=13633