Some can’t get enough of furniture showrooms, which is at a glance what Clerkenwell Design Week is all about, but a few of those go a long way in my case. Luckily for me, then, that this festival of design always throws up a few interesting set-pieces and this is the main one of them: a pavilion called “Smith” by Studio Weave in St. John’s Square.
The legions of admirers of our columnist Maria Smith of Studio Weave might appreciate their naming the building after her, but in fact it’s all to do with the variety of ‘smiths’ of various kinds from goldsmiths downwards who traditionally operated in Clerkenwell before it became a proto-Shoreditch. When I dropped by, a number of said smiths were in residence, and you could try out the tools of their trades.
But I’m more interested in the structure, which is made from a stressed skin of Marley’s “Equitone” fibre-cement panels, expressed as triangulated columns and beams. Studio Weave play creatively with the ribbing of these panels to make patterns reminiscent of some Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. Inside they become painted panels depicting the trades in question.
It’s not weathertight, though a basic aluminium gutter system catches the rain that drips through the crevices and carries it to the exterior. Open at both ends, it’s really just a kind of inhabited portal, holding a conversation with the medieval portal of St. John’s Priory across the street. But for a building with a life of a few days, what does that matter? It’s real architecture and it’s a real building. Hurrah for the Smiths!
RIBA East Awards 2017
Daniel Swift Gibbs loves the region's community and space