2021 MA Graduate Showcase

Ruijie Shen

The Monoliths - An Interactive Pavilion Project


The pandemic forces us to re-consider and assume more potential future possibilities, so the combination of reality and fiction makes up the framework of my whole story. When the ruling class found out that the physical quarantine measures in fact contradicted with the long-term existed free will of society, the traditional way of managing human beings resurfaced, that is ''walls".

I built a wall in London from the perspective of totalitarians, aiming at separating the infected with the healthy groups, cutting their possible contact with the outside. Among them, many refugees were also included. They are used to being isolated physically and mentally, but when the wall is pushed down one day, the same dilemma as before will make a come-back to them, that is, shelter and survival. But that is not my purpose of this project, instead it will focus on designing a pavilion that provides the public with the opportunity to change and control its spatial form. This will be expressed as a redefinition of the possibilities between social engineering like the design of shelters and participants. Each individual in a group should bear the opportunity to participate the discussion and construction of social engineering which are related to them, instead of the management level assuming their requirements for living space without even consulting their opinions.

The Design Scheme

Through the site research of the above contents, my intention is to study the possible roles of the architect in acting between the interests of asylum seekers and urban planners and test it in design practice like physical models. The practice aims at designing an interactive pavilion structure in Trafalgar Square. The original structures of the fountains and sculptures are presented in the pavilion in a new form. Through flexibility and changeability, which implies that it has the greatest possibility of interaction with visitors.

A pavilion is born

When the pavilion is installed on the square, two independent spaces exist at the same time, the original square space and the square space occupied by this pavilion. The social function of the original square is temporarily deprived, raise the possibility for a design to confuse the square and the device and create a landscape wherein the square and the pavilion interlock with each other.


The right of visitors' autonomy implies communication and cooperation with others. As a trigger, by providing interaction with public space, this project is aimed at the interaction between different roles, the interaction between the visitors and the pavilion designer, the interaction between different visitors, by requiring them to communicate, and seek cooperation in the process of moving modules and reshaping the form of the pavilion, through providing the possibility of forming a temporary public space, to attract more visitors. In short, it is a stage for social interaction by examining self-consciousness.


The features of the design scheme respectively practice the expected objectives. The interactive and transformable designed structures provide the opportunity for visitors to reorganize part of the pavilion by moving these modules, and it is also convenient for construction and future demolition. All interactions are limited in the established area, and they do not only provide the maximum freedom of interaction for visitors but also with certain scope restrictions. That also means they are based on safety and without threat to the surrounding pedestrians and traffic.

According to the previous description, I use a narrative approach to divide the process of people being attracted by this wall and access the main activity area of the pavilion into 6 stages. The public would be attracted because of the interaction between wall and light emitting device. They are curious about the space on the other side of the wall, and then try to touch and push some parts that seem to be movable. When they push away the monoliths that blocks them, they observe the internal environment and then walk into the area.

From the abstract perspective, the wall is to be the integration of the particularity of the pavilion and its spatial structure, the architectural language of the wall itself in the sense that one moves through the methodological terrain of the very society which expresses itself in it. But it is nothing other than the sense of the total practice of a social formation, its use of space. It is the movement in which people are caught.


In the activity area surrounded by walls, I set up some geometric obstacles, and visitors sometimes need to work together to move these obstacles. some areas that visitors are not able to access also lead to the visual and psychological conflicts of different levels of space. This conflict is echoed by the complex structure and chaotic traffic conditions of the square itself. It splits the originally shared space and needs participants to organize some parts of the installation to resolve these splits, to reform the relationship of the space.


Architects and interior designers like any other social role position themselves differently in accordance with their design concepts and focus. However, the basic needs and expectations of a small number of groups without discursive power may not be a priority, when devoting oneself to the grand scheme of building social projects and achieve a sense of achievement. The long-term inconveniences and difficulties that Tomishima House (Tadao Ando, 1973, Japan.) and CCTV – Headquarters (Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren, 2012, Beijing), the great architects' works, brought to their clients could be seen as an outcome of the separation of design from pragmatism. With an increasing number of discussions about pragmatism and humanism in the field of architecture and interior design, such as the design of refugee shelter space. More professionals begin to focus on the culture and habits of minorities like refugees and their basic rights. The goal of the design is no longer merely limited to their domestic space but also focus on the development of users in the social space.