"The second place winners from China envisioned a buoyant, spherical balloon which holds aloft a steel roof underneath which visitors wander." (Bee Breeders)
The Charlie Hebdo Portable Pavilion competition calls for the design of a mobile structure to support and promote the principle of free speech. The circumstances surrounding the competition and the demands of the brief are perhaps as profound as the event it responds to. As a portable pavilion, the structure is temporary, yet is required to embody the longevity of cultural memory as well as a universal value. With respect to architecture, such temporality calls into question customary paradigms traditionally employed to memorialize an institution, event, or principle — those of monumentality, semiotics, and metaphor. Most of all, the competition challenges conventional assumptions of free speech in contemporary culture and society — specifically, what makes speech free and how much of it comes at a cost.
Common questions and disciplinary threads entwine the projects submitted — most specifically, typology and context. Successful projects overcame instinct and impulse, and challenged paradigms of liberty and free speech through architectural media of space, material, and form. The jury showed preference to projects demonstrating distinct characteristics including establishment of a clear conceptual, architectural position with respect to a social ideal; engagement with the public as both individual and collective; clarity of circulation, sequence, and narrative; and reconciliation between the abstract and theoretical with the physical and real. The jury was sensitive to the various positions and assumptions underlying the conceptual framework of each project, particularly between adopted or prescribed ideological, political, and cultural binaries. Reduction through polemicizing, for instance, democracy with communism does not acknowledge the increasing grey areas of capitalism’s penchant for surveillance and influence of plutocratic media organizations, therefore establishing opposition to dogma rather than achieve productive discourse. The projects selected, contribute to this discourse through architectural speculation.