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Judging the Dulwich Pavilion 2019, by our Youth Volunteer

The winning design for the Dulwich Pavilion 2019 was chosen by a panel that included Ellie, a youth volunteer judge, who sat alongside illustrious architecture specialists. Here she shares her experiences of helping to choose the winning architecture practice.

In early July I was lucky enough to be a member of the judging panel which chose the winning design for the summer pavilion competition at Dulwich. I represented young people from the Dulwich community as I have been volunteering at Dulwich for almost 6 months now as part of the Youth Volunteer Interpretation Programme (VIPs) who support the Unlocking Paintings project which aims to create, investigate and develop new ways of sharing the stories behind the Collection at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Along with the other judges, I spent the day listening to presentations from each of the architect teams behind six designs shortlisted from around 160 entries. These presentations explained the inspirations and thought process behind each design, the constructions and cost, and why the designs should be built. They included detailed insights that weren’t easily noticeable from looking at the models that were on display in the gallery over June and July, such as how particular designs were intended to be physically extended from the architecture of the gallery or how some were divisible into separate sections for different activities to take place. Looking at the materials, the sizes, the inspirations also helped me visualise the designs as a space for people to enjoy. I found this really exciting as I would just feel inside ‘yes! Build it! I want to stand under here! Walk through there!’

Meeting all the people on the day was a fantastic experience. Seeing the architects behind the designs and how they spoke, walked, and smiled, made the designs feel ‘real’. They had come up with all these brilliant designs, showcasing exceptional creativity and originality, and it was mind-blowing the amount of thought and care that had gone into the designs. It made me feel really inspired about architecture, as I love the blend of creativity and artistry with careful consideration and the technical side. A temporary pavilion allows for much more fun and freedom with creativity, which I really enjoyed as someone who loves art and design.

As well as the architects, meeting all the other judges was really cool. Seated with architects, writers, structural engineers, previous competition winners, their range of knowledge and expertise made me ask myself, what am I doing here?  It was great to hear such a range of opinions from so many backgrounds, something that I’m not used to as I spend most of my time around people my own age.

I found it incredibly challenging, trying to formulate or express my opinions or responses to the design. As I have said, some (but not all) gave me the buzzing feeling of: yes I want to see it built, but it was difficult examining why I felt this. Was it the beauty, the colour, the shapes? I then realised just because I like the design, this doesn’t mean that it is right for Dulwich. Will other people like it? Can I imagine my family visiting and enjoying this pavilion? Would my friends come? Would the people sitting next to me on the train want to see this?  A further challenge when judging,  was weighing up all the positives and negatives. It’s bright and colourful, but is it functional for when people are trying to orientate themselves? The style is highly in keeping with the gallery, but will people want to come and visit it? I remember thinking that they’re all amazing and they would all be fantastic built here, but at the same time realising they all had their own problems, so would any of them work?

I love the design we chose in the end. I love the full on boldness of the colours and the scale. I love the highlighting of international and cultural links between Dulwich, Peckham and Nigeria and I love the simple(-ish) practicality to the construction. I cannot wait to see it in real life. I had a super enjoyable day that opened my eyes to the amount of interesting things a public cultural space like Dulwich can provide. I’m grateful to Dulwich for letting me share in this as young people can often feel quite excluded from decision making. It really inspired me and showed how important it is to get involved.