Manifesta—a nomadic, European biennial of contemporary art which "responds to the new social, cultural and political reality that developed in the aftermath of the Cold War"—emerged in the 1990s. For the eleventh incarnation of the event, which will take place in Zurich during the summer of 2016, Studio Tom Emerson have developed designs for a floating island which "will constitute a new temporary landmark in the city." Located on Lake Zurich and hosting an open-air cinema and integrated swimming pool, the Pavillon of Reflections will act as the central node for the 100-day festival. Designed and realised by a team of thirty students from ETH Zurich, the pavilion aims to offer a space for dialogue and reflection on the specific artworks created for the biennial.
Zurich has a significant bathing culture – the construction of public swimming baths in the city can be traced back to ancient Roman settlements. Today, Zurich has a high density of public swimming areas which, based on the city's population, is not matched by any other city in the world. These badis also act as social venues and spaces for communal recreation, as well as being distinctive architectural monuments within the cityscape. For the designers, they provide "a platform for Zurich society to disrobe, removing status symbols in an egalitarian encounter." Following in this tradition, "the Pavillon of Reflections will offer a place for both encounters and education, a place for both passing the time with physical activity and with intellectual pursuits."
For Boris Gusic of Studio Tom Emerson, "the nature of the pavilion has been largely determined by the collective way the students work and the co-ordination that this requires. Following a competition among the students, the most promising ideas were selected and developed. Different groups have worked at different scales—from the integration of the pavilion into the city of Zurich and the lake basin, to 1:1 prototypes—in order to combine the various design, technical and organisational dimensions of the project into a multifaceted and achievable architectural plan." In addition to the design process, the production techniques—chiefly related to wood construction—will also have a profound effect on the ultimate character of the pavilion.
For Christian Jankowski, curator of Manifesta 11, the pavilion has been conceived "as a floating, multifunctional platform with a giant LED screen, a stand for spectators, a swimming pool, and a bar. In the daytime," he continues, "the pavilion will function as an urban island, a meeting place and open-air swimming area, while at night it will be a venue to reflect on the artworks presented."
Founded by a desire to explore the psychological and geographical territory of Europe, as well as to provide platform for cultural exchange throughout the region, the event has taken place in Rotterdam, Luxembourg, Ljubljana, Frankfurt, Donostia/San Sebastián, Trentino, Murcia, Genk and—most recently—St. Petersburg. Manifesta 11 is being developed under the title What People Do for Money: Some Joint Ventures. The eleventh edition of Manifesta will take place in Zurich between the 11th June and the 18th September 2016.