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We visit Thomas Demand and Caruso St John’s The Triple Folly

We visit Thomas Demand and Caruso St John's The Triple Folly

When Kvadrat CEO Anders Byriel approached artist Thomas Demand with a special project in mind, the latter immediately agreed. The ensuing commission for the textile brand, a collaboration between Demand and London architects Caruso St John, resulted in The Triple Folly; a recently completed architectural pavilion at Kvadrat’s headquarters in Ebeltoft, Denmark.

The Triple Madness collaboration

Kvadrat and Caruso St John Architects share years of work with Demand, and the bond of trust already established has allowed the parties to communicate in shorthand, executing the project with absolute confidence in each other’s vision. Byriel offered Demand a blank slate – a rarity in client records, especially for a project of this scale. Although determined to push the creative concept to its limits, Demand explains, “Anders knows I’m not going to waste good resources – I always try to make [a project] as reasonable as possible.

Indeed, the team deduced that the building needed to be functional, not just for show. Although its name borrows from a folly – a structure, typically, of little applied use other than symbolic reference or disguise – this building was to house meetings, seminars and even concerts (the acoustics were carefully considered for these purposes) and act as a discussion area of ​​the main Kvadrat HQ nearby.

“A memorable experience, a meeting place… It’s not a public space, it’s not a corporate space, it’s something in between”, Thomas Request

For Demand, one of the attractions of working with Caruso St John was the relatively compact size of their team: “It’s not a big office: I’ve worked with big offices, and it can be very tiring.” Of course, their creative approach also played a central role: “They have a very bespoke working attitude for their projects, including furniture, woodwork and everything else. They have access to crafting. Demand adds, “Adam Caruso is very good at collaboration – there’s no hierarchy, no points to prove.” I needed someone with experience in space and materials to translate my design into architecture in terms of function… It has to stand up, withstand the weather.

A drawing in three parts

Demand was drawn by the madness’s long history, as it “allows you to experiment with shapes that look like something else”. He landed on a design of three buildings integrated into one, largely inspired by his current practice in which paper plays a central role. “Kvadrat is a textile company… You are building a house for a textile company… What is the connection? A tent is the connection,” he says of his starting point. He has researched tents in the military, opera, history, public culture, cartoons, camping, and even circus. “A lot of times it’s associated with festivities, but also if you think about the refugee crisis, if you think about the Occupy London protests that took place outside the Stock Exchange, it can also deteriorate.”

Starting from the concept of the tent, and developing the idea by following forms in keeping with his fascination for paper, he ended up with three distinct buildings. The first has a roof in the shape of a folded piece of paper (or tent), with the fold becoming the peak of the roof. It “floats” above a glass cube. The translucent roof was constructed from two huge pieces of fiberglass and built on site using the same technology used to make surfboards.

The second building replicates a paper plate, with ripples around the edge, which acts as a canopy. Deservedly, inside the “plate” building he placed a kitchen. The third structure has a long window overlooking the bay and is shaped like the elliptical silhouette of an American soda vendor’s hat. “I envisioned a small concert space, a place for culturally significant performances and brainstorming activities. And so, I thought of a hat, because the hat would sit on the brain,” Demand explains.

The artist as architect

The artist’s hand is still visible despite the large scale of the finished product. Demand worked from paper model models, then scanned or translated them into CAD files. “A lot of times you have little irregularities that come from the design process, something you might only notice after you’ve sat in a meeting for a while and realized, ‘Oh, this isn’t smooth. ‘ I wanted that little afterthought.

Caruso St John worked with Demand’s own in-house architects, collaborating on smaller details such as door handles, benches, a Murano glass lamp and tables of various lengths that could be made into “different constellations”. He says, “I wanted to know if it was all developing into one entity or if it was 1,000 ideas going in all directions.”

The purple color

The purple facade of the elliptical structure is unusual and distinct. “I wanted to have it in a signature color, a textile color, because it’s on top of a hill, it’s the highest point on the pitch and you can see it from a long distance, even from the plane. “, explains Demand. He developed the particular shade of purple over several months, painting the exterior wall of his own studio in Los Angeles where he was based at the time every few days to see how the tone appeared on a large scale. ‘I settled with a color that you can’t mistake for a corporate color – no one has a purple like this. Plus, it’s also not a color you’d usually see on a building. It’s not exactly their own line, but they had those colors back in the 60s when they started.

Creative collaboration

The work of two other creatives will be presented on site. Inside the largest building will hang a work of art, Yes, butby Rosemarie Trockel, which Kvadrat purchased in 2006. “The length and height of the building will allow for installation,” says Demand, who worked on specific dimensions to accommodate the artwork.

After months of working on chair designs (he has created bronze outdoor chairs that will be permanently installed on the ground), he has sourced a tried and true chair from Max Bill; ‘a reissued design from the 1950s in a special color combination.’ He admits, “I didn’t want to be blamed for people being uncomfortable in meetings.”

Built for the future

Demand often destroys much of his work after photographing it; the photograph remains the work itself. What does he think of this pavilion that stands long in the future? “My work is basically a view of my studio. You have the documentation of it. And then everything has to change and disappear,” he says, referring to his process of destruction. “But the idea that something is only visible in photographs is still there. In a way, the audience will know it, and I have no control over its portrayal, so it has to work all the way. And there has to be a visual logic. The dominant logic should be that you take paper. It’s on a larger scale but it’s still visible as a simple geometric shape as if you were building a cardboard model yourself. §

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