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Pop Up Cities Expo Interview with Architect Kieran Gaffney

06 July 2016

Throughout 2016 the Festival of Architecture, running as part of Scotland's Year of Innovation Architechture and Design, is showcasing Scottish architecture at its very best. With a packed programme of events including exhibitions, tours and talks, the festival will highlight some of the country's most iconic buildings and talented architects.

The festival's headline event, the Pop-Up Cities Expo, is taking over The Mound in Edinburgh from 20th June to 17th July with 5 unique pavilions from Bergen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Rotterdam and Vilnius.

Expo Edinburgh 1 500X210

For the design of Edinburgh's pavilion the City of Edinburgh Council ran a competition with Edinburgh Architectural Association to find a design from a local architect. Entrants were asked to design a pavilion to represent Edinburgh on a world stage and to provide a snapshot of the capital as a world class heritage city. The winning design was created by Edinburgh based firm Konishi Gaffney Architects. 

To find out more about what inspired the design of the Edinburgh Pavilion we caught up with Kieran Gaffney from Konishi Gaffney Architects. 

How did you come up with the design for the Pavilion?

One of the main ideas was trying to capture the ''pop-up'' concept of the Expo. We started experimenting with simple origami shapes which not only create an interesting internal exhibition space, but also offer an innovative external form.

We were also interested in modular construction elements which can be reassembled in different ways, in order to create different spaces.   

How does it represent the city?

Edinburgh is reflected not only in the internal exhibition content, but also with other pavilion features. From the use of locally sourced materials to the design itself, one characteristic point is the window orientation, specifically overlooking at the Castle and the Scott Monument.

Expo Edinburgh 2 500X210

What did you take inspiration from for your design? 

Edinburgh has a strong duality between history and modernity. Also the skyline has a very characteristic composition with its sharp spires, overlapping streets, and important natural elements like Arthur's Seat. These ideas are reflected within the pavilion's abstract design.

How does it compare to the other cities Pavilions?

Every pavilion has distinctive features which define the cities they represent. I think the Edinburgh Pavilion has a strong & different internal form which is almost cathedral like.

Expo Edinburgh 3 500X210

What can people expect to see at Expo?

Short but varied experience of the five different city's exhibition content. Fun building ideas and some interesting content.

What are you most excited about?

I’m biased but I like the seat in our Pavilion where you can sit down enjoy the texture of the internal structure.

How would you describe your work/style and how is this represented in your design?

We approach each project with an open mind and a desire to find the right solution. We genuinely take a number different approaches to projects from explorations of form, to simple construction methods to material tests and this pavilion is one that we haven’t done before (and that was a huge technical challenge). As a result we don’t have a style but we do like to simplify things, that said I also love decoration!

Expo Edinburgh 4 500X210

What makes Edinburgh’s architecture so special?

Two things: the geology that makes the section through the city so interesting and varied and the strength of the architecture of the New Town which seeks to dominate that geology. 

What’s your favourite piece of architecture in the city and why?

I like a modern house (from 1959) called the Stilitto house by Morris & Steadman. It’s brilliant, abstract and powerful but also a liveable and humane piece of architecture.