together apart

Year: 2020
Size: 70 m2
Type: installation
Status: completed
Location: Suzhou, Jiansu, China
Client: Suzhou International Design Week

Partners in charge: Nicola Saladino
Design team: Yiren Wang, Nuofan Xu, Shoutuo Lyu, Ziyao Zhang

Contractor: Shandong Huarui Exhibition Ltd.
Structural consultant: Davide Tomasi

Together Apart is a pavilion that explores the contradictions of a public space designed for gatherings in a time of social distancing.

The design responds to a call from 2020 Suzhou International Design Week to explore the “New Norm”: emerging post-epidemic forms of social interaction and cultural exchanges. After the lockdowns had reduced everyone’s social life to virtual online encounters, China is finally recovering from the pandemic and people are going back to filling the streets. Social distancing, though, is still an ever-present underlying layer that forces them to experience the urban space through a different lens.

The design brief asked for a lecture hall / workshop space with an annexed info point / cafe'. Rather than imposing one way of using the pavilion, we provide the maximum variety of operational modes. When there is no event the pavilion works as an intensifier of the surrounding plaza, offering a sort of artificial topography where people can sit down to enjoy a coffee or read, lie down on soft cushions to watch a projection or play on the suspended net in the back. During a lecture, instead, the visitors can decide whether they want to be part of the small crowd gathered together inside the pavilion or they prefer to stay apart and peek in from a safe distance through the holes located in the back.

The interior is wrapped by a colorful elastic skin made of silicon pipes that filters the views without disconnecting the lecture hall from the plaza. Suzhou is internationally famous for its traditional gardens and their architecture that challenges the usual dichotomy of “in and out”. Our façade explores the same concept, blurring such threshold in order to attract the curiosity of the passers-by, while preserving an intimate atmosphere for the speaker and the audience inside. If they decide to enter, visitors have to pull the elastic strings apart and squeeze to pass through, in an effort that reminds them of the importance of social distancing when their personal space is challenged by the pressure of the multitude.

“聚 • 隔”是一个展亭,它提供了在保持社交距离的时代为公众设计用于聚集的空间这样看似矛盾的要求下的一种对新形式的探索。

展亭设计回应了2020苏州国际设计周的理念——“新日常”:  探索后疫情时代的社会互动和文化交流。在封城一度使得每个人的社交方式都沦为虚拟的在线交流之后,中国终于从新冠大流行中恢复过来,人们也重新涌上街头。然而,保持社交距离仍是不会过时的潜在条件,正迫使人们通过不同的视角去体验城市空间。