Photos by Henry Woide.
Architect Venelin Kokalov has devoted his work to making spaces that foster happiness and serenity. “I’ve always created buildings and places that touch people’s hearts; places that make people joyful and excited,” says the principal of Vancouver-based Revery Architecture. But for Revery’s installation at London’s Design Biennale, on now until June 27, Kokalov took a very different approach. “For first time in my career, I decided to create something that makes you feel uncomfortable,” he says.
The installation was inspired by “our total dependence on indoor micro-climate systems in the building sector at the expense of the wellbeing of our planet”—in other words, on how much energy is used to heat and cool buildings, and how that contributes to climate change. Kokalov wanted the exhibit to be interactive, forcing the viewer to think about their own habits and their consequences. The end result is called DUCkT, and is made up of two massive gold air ducts passing through a corridor.
DUCkT was designed to be attractive to the eye, but inconvenient for the body. “When you arrive, you don’t see what is in front of you,” explains Kokalov, “you have to bend down and go under the ducts.” Once you pass below the first obstacle, you’re stuck between that and the second. The air ducts create noise, which adds to the unpleasantness. Kokalov says that gold aluminum was selected for the installation because it represents wealth and splendor—but it’s also reflective. “I wanted you to see yourself in these golden ducts, and to give you time to reflect and to rethink the future,” says the architect.
The sparkling, loud, obstacle-course-like exhibit encourages the viewer to think about their own habits. “Lots of money is spent on wrong places and wrong systems,” says Kokalov, “and we are giving up our air and our space to the systems.” DUCkT literally takes up air and space, and while it is beautiful, it’s also very ominous. “I used the physical discomfort to make you think,” says Kokalov.
Kokalov acknowledges that his own industry’s contributions the problem he presents. “Clearly, as architects, we are as guilty as everyone else,” he says. “Our aim is to use this platform to raise some very important questions. We need people to reflect and act, and there’s nothing more compelling than feeling within your own body the physical discomfort of bending to these constraints in order to achieve the thermal comfort we have become accustomed to.”
DUCkT is on at the London Design Biennale from now until June 27, but if you’re not in the neighbourhood (Kokalov himself wasn’t able to travel for the show) enjoy these photos in the meantime.