Highly Commended in AR_EA 2016, Beals Lyon Arquitectos gives visitors the chance to escape real life and meander through a fairy tale
In lieu of a self-contained object placed into the landscape, Beals Lyon Arquitectos’s Garden of Forking Paths is a walkway that winds through a cornfield in Santiago de Chile’s Parque Araucano. Early sketches for this pavilion project illustrate voids connected by a sinuous route within a dense vegetal mass. The plan is borrowed from the hedge maze at Versailles, conceived by André Le Nôtre in the 1670s.
Le Nôtre’s initial design comprised unadorned paths but, on the advice of Charles Perrault, the labyrinth was remodelled to feature fountains depicting stories from Aesop’s Fables. These formed educational structures for Louis XIV’s six-year-old son, the Dauphin, who learned to read on the sculptures’ plaques.
The fountains of Versailles are replaced by small follies which include a music room, a pond and a light house. The young duo want visitors to rethink how they spend their time. They deplore that we have all become commuters – always with a destination and a purpose – instead of being flâneurs. In the Garden of Forking Paths, people are encouraged to be ‘unproductive’ – to wander, explore and allow themselves to be surprised. The architects aim to instigate ‘new rules, a new pace, a slowness’. In the final drawings, their iteration of the Versailles labyrinth is populated by characters from fables and fairy tales – odd-looking people donning extravagant hats are exchanging secrets while a peacock watches a bear playing the cello – perpetuating the link to the Versailles story and ensuring visitors step out of the ordinary.
The Chilean pair see themselves as designers of experiences: ‘Our inspiration comes directly from personal memories,’ they say. The maze structure is designed from recycled scaffolding planks and painted yellow, bringing in raw elements from the surroundings – water, light, corn crops. The economy of form and simplicity of materials aims to engage the senses and trigger the imagination. Beals and Lyon don’t believe in architectural recipes and don’t think they have a style – in fact, they aim not to have one, preferring to start each project from scratch. As they claim they like to be ‘pushed out of our comfort zones’, it is refreshing to see they also seek to prompt that feeling in their projects’ users.
Forking paths isometric