Pavilions of the Future

written by Beatriz Colomina


The architects of the Renaissance established ways of going about things which perhaps we unconsciously follow: for example, between the idea sketchily stated and the commission for the permanent building came the stage-architecture of the court masque; the architectural settings and decorations for the birthday of the prince, for the wedding of a ducal daughter, for the entry of a Pope into a city state; these events were used as opportunities for the realization of the new style; the new sort of space; the new weight of decoration; made real perhaps for a single day . . . the transient enjoyably consumed, creating the taste for the permanent.[i]


Alison and Peter Smithson saw the tradition of temporary theatrical structures as a centuries old practice in architecture that plays a crucial role in stimulating the evolution of ideas and tastes. As in the Renaissance, their House of the Future, commissioned by the Daily Mail as a pavilion for the 1956 Ideal Home Exhibition in London, was staged architecture, a shimmering masque, which doesn’t make the proposal less provocative but more so: “Like all exhibitions, they live a life of say four weeks in reality, then they go on and on forever. Like the Barcelona Pavilion before it was reconstructed.”[ii]  The temporary turns out to be permanent.



[i] Alison and Peter Smithson, “Staging the Possible,” in: Alison + Peter Smithson, Italian Thoughts (Sweden, 1993: A&P Smithson), p.16. See also the earlier version of the same argument in “The Masque and the Exhibition: Stages Toward the Real,” ILA&UD Year Book, July 1982.


[ii] Beatriz Colomina, “Friends of the Future: A Conversation with Peter Smithson,” October 94 (Fall 2000), p. 24.