Spirit Pavilion

Location: Seattle, WA
Completion Date: 2012
Award: 2nd Place in International Design Competition 'Transforming Seattle's 520 Floating Bridge'
Project Team: Jon Gentry AIA, Aimée O’Carroll ARB

Project Narrative


In the spring of 2014, a new Seattle tradition will emerge in the heart of Lake Washington. Over a timeframe of 15 years, the 520 floating bridge is systematically dissected and reimagined as a series of site specific island installations; a set of iterative responses grow to form a new connective tissue emerging from Seattle’s eastern borders and penetrating deep into Lake Washington. The masterplan sets out a phased pattern of growth, carefully tying together the construction, planting, and displacement of 15 pontoons. These are removed year on year from the 520 bridge, harnessing the power of nature, time and architecture. Each year a designer is chosen to curate a pavilion with an open brief which allows a variety of programmatic responses to the unusual, multi-faceted site. The only constraints are to be the inclusion of natural landscape and the ability to connect to previous and future pontoons.

Within the first year several pontoons are removed, creating a disconnect from east to west. A linear park is planted, growing from the eastern side of Seattle, accessed on foot or bicycle from the junction of the old bridge and the new. A kayak and bike rental is nestled within the underbelly of the old 520 bridge, allowing the journey to be experienced by land or water. Repurposed space below the disconnected westernmost section of bridge is used as the staging area for constructing the annual spirit pavilion. Once built, the pavilion is moved to the centre of the lake, to be accessed only by water. After one year in situ, the pavilion is towed to the edge of the park to begin the growth of the archipelago.

Each subsequent year, a new pontoon is chosen and planted ahead of its construction. The cycle of growth and movement continues with each new pavilion spending a year floating in isolation before returning to dock alongside the park.

After 15 years, the final pavilion returns to dock alongside the linear park. A series of unexpected programmatic adjacencies have been created with a new typology of urban landscape, inherently tied to the natural beauty of Lake Washington and the infrastructure of the city.

Spirit Pavilion

The first floating pavilion to be constructed aims to harness the power of journey and discovery to create a place of quiet contemplation within the city. Floating in isolation, the pavilion is positioned to frame views and immersive natural experiences. Primarily, the program is broken into two elements: the platform and the field. The platform provides a space for collective meditation and an elevated refuge to absorb the surrounding landscape. The lavender field creates a sensory experience providing a natural sense of calm and solitude; an open landscape for discovery and contemplation.

Time is an integral element of the spirit pavilion’s evolution. The course of nature is evident through the weathering of materials, the growth of the field, and expansion of the garden wall over the years.

The journey to the pavilion creates a physical and metaphorical separation from the surrounding urban landscape, requiring visitors to actively engage in their displacement from the city and arrival to this new spirit.