One Empty, Yellow, (Belgian) Beer Crate x 30,000 = A Deeper Moment of Ecological Awareness

View from floor below

Taking 33,000 empty yellow beer crates, each an identical piece of urban background noise, Belgian Architectural firm SHSH slotted them together like stone and brick masonry into a complex, allusive pavilion--from one angle, a Romance cathedral with columns and flying arches, and another, a forest's tree trunks, branches and leaves. Walking through the structure, in and out of the flickering light, each crate disappears into the whole as the imagination takes over.

View from front to rear

The initial commission: construct a temporary pavilion to celebrate an important milestone in Belgian history, the fiftieth anniversary of the 1958 Brussels World's Fair: a successfully rebuilt nation. A palpable optimism for the future. But the architects wanted the pavilion to reach beyond that simple mandate:

We desired the contents of the pavilion to ask, 50 years later, what the notions of progress, universalism and happiness had brought in their time ...

Those questions were amplified by the crate:

... the pavilion is built using an usual and ephemeral component which after the event returns to its normal daily use.

Juxtaposition: two eras face to face. The new pavilion stares at the late 50's, futuristic Atomium building still exuding scientific progress, limitless resources, and a future charged with the atom's malleable possibility. The past's pain erased by pure velocity.

Future concerns: pollution, waste and limited resources weren't entertained.

The Atomium

The architects were even more specific about their intentions:

... a plastic beer crate is used as a generic element... This allowed us to form a huge and enigmatic interior environment.

Entering the pavilion's "enigmatic" interiority, amplified by lighting effects (the architects are also set designers--scroll to see their work) you find yourself in a contemplative space; moments become a subtle time machine, moving you toward the architects' deeper concerns.

Pavilion arches

The pavilion instantly changes your sense of time. Instead of hurtling into the future, time slows, then reverses. You become reattached to your past- personal and collective: churches, palaces, culture and the deep primeval forest. As day turns to night, deeper shadows appear, you now reside in the psychic terrain of Brother's Grim. Wolves, witches and your own demons are accessible. It starts to heal the 50's mental rupture--you're Proust on a beer budget.

And the crate's reality help anchor you in the the present:

Understanding that the sense of the temporary can only be truly successful when it is free of waste...

A brief taste of awareness--an ecological sense. Decisions and actions reach into the past and future. Waste, sustainability and interconnectedness exist and inform your decisions. You walk out subtly changed.

What places or exhibits have you been to that have changed your life?

Photo: SHSH Architects


Kent Harrington's picture

What is a knowledge puzzle? Kent