‘Not Months but Moments’: Ephemerality, Monumentality, and the Pavilion in Ruins

Ihor Junyk


This article examines a fundamental tension between ephemerality and monumentality in the history of pavilion architecture. Descended from the ancient tent, the pavilion was taken up by European landscape architecture in the eighteenth century. Integrated into an aesthetic of the picturesque, these ephemeral structures were both settings and instruments of a set of fleeting experiences that can be grouped under the category of reverie. However, during the course of the nineteenth century, the pavilion underwent a dramatic change, gradually becoming the monumental representative of the nations that participated at the various expositions and World’s Fairs that took place during that century and the next. Unable to actualize the permanence they were meant to embody, pavilions instead called forth aggressive fantasies of ruin and death. Wary of the deathly aesthetics of monumentality and sublimity, architects working in the last couple decades have returned the pavilion to its original ephemerality. Experimenting with new materials and digital technologies they have created contemporary follies as new spaces for reverie.

pavilion, monumentality, ephemeral, ruin, death, reverie, Paris Exposition 1939.

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DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.5456/issn.2050-3679/2013w02ij

Biographical note
Ihor Junyk is an Associate Professor of Cultural Studies at Trent University in Peterborough (Ontario, Canada) where he teaches and researches literature, visual culture, and media. His articles have appeared in leading humanities journals such as Grey Room, Comparative Literature, and Early Popular Visual Culture. His book, Foreign Modernism: Cosmopolitanism, Identity, and Style in Paris, will be published by the University of Toronto Press in 2013.