For the Benaki Museum pavilion at the Four Seasons, we have attempted to design a structure that embodies multiple aspects that are often perceived as opposites: a structure that is modern yet contemporary; modular yet sculptural; both transparent and opaque; with the idea of the garden permeating the aforementioned binaries. The garden is not perceived as a hortus conclusus, but rather as a concealed space, inviting visitors to engage with the mysticism that is embodied in the materiality of the pavilion, while unconsciously traversing the private-public threshold. The Benaki Museum pavilion embodies the cultural heritage that is present in the collections of the institution, within a cultural landscape that is in a durational conversation with the modernist materialism, facilitating its contemporary emergence. The primary gesture has been the utilization of the garden as a meeting point, where the visitors can acquire information on the identity, the vision and the collections of the museum, but at the same time, the construction of a pop up exhibition space and museum shop, where artists respond, through their work, to the collections of the museum. The notion of accessibility, that accentuated by greek modernism, acquires a fundamental role towards the realization of the architectural design.
Taking the architecture of the complex, in which the pavilion is located as a departure point, we perceived the design of the space, as a dialogue with the landscape, identifying the preexisting architecture as a living organism — vital contributor to the broader ecosystem, we were invited to engage in. The Astir complex, emerging from the architectural apparatus of greek modernization and the shaping of the cultural identity of the country during the 50s and 60s, constituted a catalyst towards the wider development of the tourism landscapes that are reintroduced in a contemporary context, while preserving the voluptuous and elegant character of the past.
The design emphasizes the role the senses and emotions play in our experience of past and present architecture – enmeshed within the cabana in the garden that was envisioned by Emmanouil Vourekas. A refined selection of contemporary materials – fiberglass and aluminum foam found in marine technologies, as a continuation of modern materiality – constitutes contemplative spaces evoking the spiritual dimension of our physical environment, while the shell of the structure retains its translucent character. The concept of the sheltered pergola is intentionally preserved, contributing further to the original goal of the architect; to customize the pavilion precisely to its purpose as a physical body and an object of emotional experience that is materialized by the performativity of the rotating gate. The wooden blinds that constitute the door, embody the notion of permeability of the pavilion space. Enacting the role of a veil that underlines the porosity of the entrance, the gate elaborates on the idea of traversing the interior-exterior binary, allowing the visitors to engage ceaselessly with the artworks.