Big worlds under little tents

Joel Robinson


In broaching the question ‘what is a pavilion?’ we learn that this little studied type of structure has assumed so many forms and functions throughout modern history as to beg the question of whether it can really be seen as an architectural type at all. This editorial introduction suggests that one way of conceptualizing the pavilion across time and space is as a structure whose transient (and often modest) presence in the landscape quite remarkably belies the otherwise rather weighty ideas or positions about the world that are embodied or indeed put on display there. This thesis is supported by some of the texts that follow, and which explore pavilions as spaces of display, ornamental eccentricities, experimental prototypes, as well as heraldic or diplomatic monuments of a kind.

Keywords: pavilion, architecture, exhibition, exposition, world’s fair, internationalism.

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Biographical note
Joel Robinson is a Research Affiliate in the Department of Art History at The Open University and an Associate Lecturer for The Open University in the East of England. His main interests are modern and contemporary art, architecture and landscape studies. He is the author of Life in Ruins: Architectural Culture and the Question of Death in the Twentieth Century (2007), which stemmed from his doctoral work in Art History at the University of Essex, and co-editor of a new anthology in art history titled Art and Visual Culture: A Reader (2012).  Additionally, he is a freelance critic publishing in various magazines of contemporary art, and is Contributing Editor in London for Asian Art News and World Sculpture News.