Beneath the Hotel, the Beach
Fillip talks to François Perrin about Air Hotel, a site specific installation produced in collaboration with Mountain School of Arts.
Fillip: Last winter you collaborated with Mountain School of Arts (MSA^) to produce Air Hotel at Art Basel Miami Beach. Could you tell us more about the project?
François Perrin: MSA was invited by Samuel Keller, the director of Art Basel Miami Beach, to present a project for the fair in December of 2006. I was asked by Eric Wesley and Piero Golia, artists and co-founders of MSA, to design it. The project was to build a temporary hotel on the beach. As an institution, especially a free one, MSA wanted to offer a service for the fair by providing a solution to avoid the high prices of local hotels for their students or young artists.
Fillip: How would you describe the form that you chose for the building?
Perrin: As an architect, I have been interested in the disappearance of a building in the landscape. Where the walls disappear, a new occupation of space is possible. So designing a space for a school that exists without a building seemed a natural act. The starting point of the project was to produce a really light environment, offering a place to host people for the night, a functional space for students to gather. But the space would also offer some relief from the fast pace of the fair for the visitor. It was to be a calming environment to allow for discussions and encounters. The shape of the structure is based on a “wind rose,” a diagram showing the prevailing winds and their strength in a given area. The structure had to be strong enough to sustain 100 mph winds, so a web of steel cables solidly anchored to the ground was used to hang the light fabric that would protect from the sun and the wind.
Fillip: What is the fabric made of?
Perrin: I have been experimenting for some time now with building spaces as climate zones that interact with the local environment. I often have to rely on minimal budgets and have to find new materials that allow me to cover large areas. The material chosen for the project was silver shade cloth that reflected the sun’s rays efficiently and produced an area where the temperature is sometimes twenty degrees lower. It also protects from the wind. Because of its location (on the white sand) and the ever-changing light reflection, the resulting structure would sometimes glow like a giant diamond emerging from the beach. It would also sometimes disappear like a furtive survival shelter hiding itself from potential harm.
Fillip: How did Air Hotel operate as an educational space over the course of the fair?
Perrin: The project acted as a space of resistance during the fair. The tent served as the public space of the school, part-time cafeteria, bar, nap room, or meeting area. At the same time, it was a pleasant observatory of the ongoing events. A crew of regulars started spending time in it, just to read a book or to discuss future projects. It was a place for thinking as the banner conceived for the occasion by the artist Peter Coffin suggested. When you create a design that reacts to the climate, it is tested right away. The beach got windy during the whole time lifting the structure in the air so that it looked like it could fly away. Some nights would be so windy that we would joke about the tent landing overnight in Cuba, like the last act of resistance for a school without a building.
About the Author
François Perrin is an architect based in Los Angeles. He is the curator and editor of the book and exhibition, Air Architecture: Yves Klein, which was presented in Los Angeles, New York, and Vienna. He is currently completing new residential projects in the Hollywood Hills and Malibu.