Pernilla & Asif is stunning example of rise in experimental nature of emerging firms
A new wave of experimental young architecture practices is surging up across the UK blending elements of architecture, sculpture, interior design, sensory exploration, artistic installation and cutting-edge technology. It may be a reaction to the unstable economic environment or an evolution of what we consider to be ‘architecture’, but the majority of young architecture and design firms in the United Kingdom are weaving elements of a diverse range of fields into their architectural compositions.
One such practice is Pernilla & Asif, headed by two Bartlett School of Architecture graduates who initiated their company in October 2011 after a number of high profile commissions from international sources. After forging a bond during their studies in London, Pernilla Ohrstedt and Asif Khan spread their wings independently, Ohrstedt travelling to New York and Venice to act as co-originator of the Storefront for Art and Architecture’s exhibitions programme and curator and director of the Canadian Pavilion at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale.
Khan’s unusual designs and imaginative blends of architecture, industrial design and furniture earned him the Designer of the Future Award at Design Miami in 2011 and Designer in Residence at the Design Museum, London in 2009-10. In 2011 the two inventive architects re-found each other and began to collaborate on a number of ingenious projects such as the ‘Future Memory Pavilion’ for the British Council, Royal Academy of Arts and the Preservation of Monuments Board, Singapore. This pair of rope cones was filled with either sand or ice, ‘respectively filling and emptying the interior spaces [in an effort to] address land and climate issues inherent to Singapore’s history and future’.
One of the partnership’s most memorable designs is the Cloud (2011): an installation which releases a series of miniature clouds formed of helium gas, water and soap into an overhead canopy. This successful project has been repeated on three occasions at Design Miami/Basel, the window-front of retailer Colette in Paris, and most recently at the York Hall boxing venue in Bethnal Green, London. Pernilla & Asif explain their inspiration for this whimsical project in the short film by Crane TV below.
The key ingredient for Pernilla & Asif seems to be fun: an integral element of enjoyment in both the creation and life of their architectural projects. Khan explains: “One of the reasons we work together is because it’s so much fun. Everything we do is just really enjoyable and that’s really important to produce good work.” Ohrstedt continues this by saying: “There’s nothing we can’t say to each other…and I think there is also a huge amount of respect.”
This element of enjoyment is clearly displayed in the firm’s most recent - and by far its biggest - commission, ‘The Coca Cola Beatbox’. Pernilla & Asif were recruited by Coca Cola to design a pavilion at the 2012 London Olympic Park in collaboration with Grammy Award-winning producer Mark Ronson, intertwining elements of architecture, installation, technology and music to ignite public interest in London’s young architects and designers.
The concept will enable visitors to ‘play’ the pavilion through interacting with sounds embedded within the architecture itself, creating their own beat for London 2012 by remixing sounds of Olympic sports captured for an anthem created by Ronson. A competition for the commission was launched by the Architecture Foundation to discover the ‘next big architectural talent in the UK’.
Ohrstedt and Khan said of the commission: “As Londoners we are really excited to be a part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Coca Cola, a truly iconic brand, has believed in our practice’s creativity and vision to represent them at London 2012, taking our unique architecture to a global audience. We have sought out some of the most innovative engineers in the UK to work with us to realise our vision - a ‘building with a beat’. The Coca Cola Beatbox will be a sensory experience that fuses design, music, sport and architecture. It will be something that people have never seen or heard before!”
Last year, WAN launched the 21 for 21 Award in a quest to discover the top 21 emerging architects for the 21st century, selecting five superb new practices for this highly contested list. This week we have continued the search by reopening the competition and entries can now be submitted by clicking here.