Montalba Architects' Bex & Arts Pavilion Is an Evocative Little Box

©. Delphine Burtin via V2com

This portable pavilion has a clever lightweight structure where the bookshelves hold up the roof.

Montalba Architects have designed a gem of a little portable building, the Bex & Arts Pavilion. It's described on V2com:

Featuring a fabrication studio, exhibition space, and visitor center, the pavilion–which won awards from AIA California Council and American MasterPrize, among others–is structurally supported by lightweight wooden shelves and sits on a movable foundation to limit the impact of the construction to the landscape.
Prefab book cover

Prefab book cover/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

It's 20 years since Oscar Leo and Johannes Kaufmann designed SU-SI, a small prefabricated dwelling on stilts that was on the cover of Alison Arieff and Brian Burkhart's 2002 book Prefab. One of the things that I found so interesting and innovative at the time were the way it was supported by lightweight wooden shelves; basically, they held up the roof. (See an inside photo here) It was minimalist and elegant, and I had never seen this before.

Bex & Arts Pavilion shelves

© Delphine Burtin via V2com

In Montalba Architects' version, the bookcase sides neatly tie into the beams that support the roof. When I was in architecture school we talked about support (the basic building structure) and fill (the stuff you bring into it, like shelving) generating action. But in the SU-SI and here, the support and the fill are one, which is what is so ingenious.

Bex & Arts Pavilion shelves closeup

© Delphine Burtin via V2com

According to an article in Dwell, the 430 square foot Pavilion is all made out of local materials and set on a movable foundation.

The "skin" of the pavilion is made up of black vertical cement boards with custom perforations that allow light to enter the interior. "The contrast of the structure within the serene Swiss landscape is furthered through the contrasting palette of light plywood color and the pavilion’s saturated black perforated skin facade," explains Montalba.
Bex & Arts Pavilion exterior cladding

Delphine Burtin via V2com/CC BY 2.0

It is all made out of plywood, with an exterior of black vertical cement boards.

Leo Kaufmann System 3

Leo Kaufmann system 3/ Photo Lloyd Alter at MoMa Home Delivery, 2008/CC BY 2.0

I can't help thinking that the exterior, with all its little holes, reminded me of another Oscar Leo Kaufmann prefab, the System 3 that I saw in New York City at the MoMa Home Delivery exhibition in 2008. Is there a lot of homage going on here, or is it just a coincidence?