References to the tar pits of Los Angeles and community well-being characterise Black – Still, a pavilion by local design studio enFOLD Collective at Craft Contemporary in LA.
Created through the initiatives of arts non-profit Materials & Applications, Black – Still comprises a 12-foot-tall black box clad in wood lath and mortar.
EnFOLD collective created a monolithic installation at Craft Contemporary in Los Angeles
From the outside, the mortar appears to seep through the 2,000 pieces of black-painted lath that clad the exterior. The mortar is a reference to the nearby La Brea Tar pits in Los Angeles and how the geological substrata of the city “pushes through human-made infrastructure”, an allusion to hidden forces.
On the inside of the open-air structure is a wall of black geotextile mesh and viewers are provided strips of fabric to tie onto it.
It is clad in wood with mortar seeping through to emulate tar
Created as a space for “community well-being”, the structure is free and open to the public. It has misters and has been used to host events and programming since it opened in late May 2023.
Beyond its use, the designers wanted the structure to be a commentary on the colour black in the design industry, both in the way it is explicitly used as a colour and in terms of Blackness.
It was designed as a space for community engagement and reflection on themes
“While the inspiration to use the color black was first sparked by the concept of meditation and stillness, it was then reinforced by the presence of and our enchantment by tar,” enFOLD Collective founders Dana McKinney White and Megan Echols told Dezeen.
“As Black women trained in the fields of architecture and urban planning, we have both felt the isolation of our identity throughout our education and careers,” they continued.
“But this isolation is dwarfed by that of our community which has been historically disenfranchised by a design industry that often and explicitly weaponizes space against them.”
It has a mound of recycled rubber at its base
The need for stillness was in part inspired by the busy site, the courtyard of the Craft Contemporary museum in central Los Angeles. The pavilion was wedged into a small enclosure between the complex’s building, near a fence that separates it from the street.
At its base is a mound of recycled tire rubber mulch that works to separate the “calming” effect of the installation from the rest of the site.
The inside is clad in mesh that visitors can adorn with pieces of fabric
“We wanted a project that would serve as a space of peace and reflection, and the courtyard posed a challenge of how to neutralize distractions, focus attention, and elevate calm,” enFold Collective told Dezeen, adding that the “monolithic form” responds to the “idiosyncratic shapes”.
On the other hand, the strange texture of the exterior was meant to create a pause.
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EnFOLD Collective added that the pavilion was meant to provoke the way that black as a literal colour is used in the design industry, noting that many models and plans and walls are usually rendered in white.
“In the use of the color black, we are further able to challenge the color in its role throughout the design industries,” enFOLD told Dezeen.
“These aesthetic decisions are steeped in a system that values purity and legibility. However, we wanted to challenge how we could shape a space of warmth, comfort, and peace through blackness, leveraging shadows, light, and the spectral rainbow captured in the mist.”
It is wedged in the courtyard of the museum
Founded in 2021, the studio aims to “uplift the voices of underrepresented and under-resourced communities” through design. Black – Still is the duo’s first major installation.
Other installations that examine racial diversity in the built environment include Los Angeles artist Lauren Halsey’s monumental installation, which was shown on the rooftop of the Met in New York City, and combines elements of Egyptian culture and street art.
The photography is by Sam Wadieh.
Architecture: enFOLD Collective
Commissioned by: Materials & Applications
Supported by: Craft Contemporary, The Graham Foundation, Black Reconstruction Collective, Pasadena Art Alliance, and Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
Fabrication support: P31 Construction / Builder Bee