There was a time, not too long ago, when a smoker could enjoy their cigarette anywhere, and at any time. Doctors would see patients with a cigarette in their hand, a taxi driver could drive you around whilst smoking, or you could light up anywhere from restaurants, bars, movie theatres, and even commercial flights. Thankfully, for all us non-smokers out there, this is no longer the case. Councils have even begun to ban smoking in public places, in the aim of public health. This is making it harder and harder for the millions of smokers in the world to light up without considering those around them, which was the initial inspiration for this smoking pavilion in the garden of a home in Zurich. Here, the owners enlisted the help of UK-based Gianni Botsford Architects to build a modern garden smoking room, constructed of translucent concrete. The result was the world's first self-supporting translucent concrete building; the perfect place to sit and enjoy smoking in the sun, away from those not so fond of cigarette smoke.
The idea behind the smoking pavilion was to create a simple structure that would sit quietly in the garden, but posess complexity in its material choice. The translucency of the concrete allows the concrete structure to feel 'alive', much like the living plant life that surround it. The open entrance allows for a light-filled space, offering unobstructed views out into the garden.
The finished result of the smoking pavilion looks like a very simple structure, but in fact, required careful engineering to keep the translucent concrete from needing a secondary structure for support.
So what exactly is translucent concrete, you might ask? Well, the name says it all, really. It is a concrete-based building material with light-transmissive properties, due to the addition of optical fibres to the fine grain concrete during the casting process.
And this is the finished result. A building material as strong as normal concrete, but only this time, it is transparent. You can see through the concrete the same way you might be able to see through cloth materials. The silhouettes of the foliage of the garden that surround the structure are clearly visible, and the changing light outside determines the colours that illuminate the space; almost hard to believe knowing the pavilion is made of a material we normally consider to be solid and strong.
Can a building material as raw and unnatural blend into a beautiful green garden such as this? The answer is yes, and this project is the proof. Its initial impression is one of boldness and strength, but upon further inspection, and with a little insight, the structure seems a lot less intrusive, and adds a real talking point to the garden. The concrete stones that lay dotted in the grass lead the smoker down the stairs from the house to the room. With such strong lines, sharp shadows are cast throughout the day, forever shifting with the sun, and allowing the translucency of the pavilion to change and move with the sun.
While we are all well aware of the detrimental effects smoking has on our health, it seems this habit is not going away forever any time soon, although the habits of smokers are being forced to change, and the amount of non-smokers grows. Offering a place of solitude for the smoker of the house, away from the rest of the home's occupants, this space seems to come alive; a friend to sit and enjoy a cigar or cigarette with, without feeling pressured.
So much more than a smoking room, this is a feat of engineering, proving translucent concrete can be self supporting, and is a bold piece of art, in an entirely different form than a traditional piece of art or sculpture for the home.
Want to see other less daring, but just as stunning gardens? Then have a read of these ideabooks: