Rising from the Water pavilion draws on architecture by Yasmeen Lari

A circular pavilion formed of wood and reed, created by students with guidance from Pakistani architect Yasmeen Lari and design studio Material Cultures, is on display in Barking for London Festival of Architecture.

Named Rising from the Water, the pavilion is positioned close to Barking Creek Flood Barrier and explores building solutions for the area as its flood risk grows with rising sea levels.

Material Cultures led the project with arts organisation Create London and constructed it with students both with and without knowledge and experience in architecture.

Rising from the Water is a pavilion made from wood and reed

While forming part of London Festival of Architecture (LFA), the pavilion’s construction also coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Great Flood in Barking, a 1953 natural disaster.

It aims to draw attention to how the area could be made flood-resilient and designed “with a better understanding of the land” using local and low-carbon materials, including those found at the water’s edge in Barking, such as reed.

“The commission was envisioned as a counter proposition to the Barking Creek Flood Barrier, the 38-metre-high and 40-metre-wide, concrete monolith structure that was engineered to prevent future flooding following the Great Flood of 1953,” said Create London director Marie Bak Mortensen.

Exterior view of Rising from the Water pavilion by Material Cultures
It has been installed as part of London Festival of Architecture

“The structure explores solutions for how we can build with a better understanding of the land and its needs – in response to the climate and environmental crisis we are in,” continued Material Cultures director George Massoud.

“It does this through the materials that are used, working within and drawing from flooded and wet areas, demonstrating how the cultivation and innovative use of these plants might form part of the future of construction,” he told Dezeen.

Reed cladding
It explores how local materials can help create a flood-resilient landscape

Rising from the Water has a circular form, with a timber structure made of reclaimed scaffolding boards, and cladding formed of reed – a plant that grows in water and is locally available – thatched and weaved in bundles.

Its design references the work of Lari, who guided the group via video call, including the Women’s Centre, a stilted bamboo building she created with people in communities affected by flooding in Pakistan.

“We worked with Yasmeen on translating some of the key design principles of her Women’s Centre in Darya Khan to our site in Barking,” said Massoud.

“Although the context and motives are very different, the design approach is similar: the circular form speaks to the Women’s Centre’s structural logic, we aimed to use homegrown materials and a participatory build process that upskills young people.”

Construction of Rising from the Water pavilion by Material Cultures
It was created in collaboration with students. Photo by Jimmy Lee

Rising from the Water’s structure was designed by Material Cultures with modular components, allowing participants to construct it quickly over just two days.

Other experts involved in helping the students deliver the project were thatcher Mark Harrington, weaver Mollie McMillen and carpenter Andi Amirshah.

Students bundling reed for cladding
The student created bundles of reed for cladding. Photo by Jimmy Lee

Also on display for LFA is The Armadillo, a curved structure made from eucalyptus wood, and an outdoor classroom built by The London School of Architecture.

Throughout the Royal Docks, a series of benches have been installed as part of the festival’s annual Pews and Perches competition, including one formed from steel-banded timber crates and a wave-like rope seat.

The photography is by Thierry Bal unless stated otherwise.

London Festival of Architecture 2024 takes place from 1 to 30 June 2024 at various locations across London. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world. 

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