Joana Vasconcelos unveils pastel wedding-cake pavilion

Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos has created the 12 -metre-high Wedding Cake pavilion, which is clad in ceramic tiles, at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, England.

Part sculpture, part architectural garden folly, Wedding Cake is an immersive sculpture “combining patisserie and architecture as a temple to love,” Vasconcelos told Dezeen.The exterior of the three-storey pavilion was clad in highly-glazed, pastel ceramic tiles intended to look like cake icing.

Ceramic tile clad pavilionCeramic tile clad pavilion
Joana Vasconcelos designed the pavilion to look like a three-tiered wedding cake

The patterned tiles and sculptural ornaments were designed to create an intricate and sensory experience – complete with the sounds of trickling water and a site-specific lighting scheme.”I wanted people to have three different approaches to it: looking from the outside, enjoying the surroundings from the different levels and balconies, and, finally, completing the artwork with their presence,” said the artist.”Above all, I always thought of it as a temple to love.”

Baroque sculptural tiles on the pavilion facadeBaroque sculptural tiles on the pavilion facade
Ceramic tiles were elevated to baroque ornamentation on the sculptural facade

Vasconcelos’ work often aims to challenge assumptions of traditional hierarchies of so-called “noble materials”, such as marble, which is used to embellish grand structures and often set above more everyday materials like ceramics and textiles.Her practice champions traditional, hand-made objects and techniques. The ceramics for Wedding Cake were made by tile-manufacturer Viúva Lamego, which has been operating in Sintra, Portugal, for 170 years.

An internal stairway seen from the first tier balconyAn internal stairway seen from the first tier balcony
A series of balconies can be accessed from internal stairs

Viúva Lamego’s standard 14 x 14cm tiles determined the size of the overall structure of Wedding Cake, whose 11 metre diameter is the smallest circle that can be made using whole tiles.Taking five years to make and, according to the artist, her “most ambitious project to date” Wedding Cake was commissioned by Lord Rothschild for the grounds of Waddesdon Manor.

Visitors “complete the artwork with their presence,” Vasconcelos told Dezeen.

The pavilion is the fourth project by Vasconcelos to be exhibited in the grounds of the estate, which was built in the 1870s by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild to entertain guests and showcase his ceramic collections.The property has been owned by the National Trust charity since 1957 and managed on their behalf by the Rothschild Foundation charity.

pavilion visible at the end of garden avenuepavilion visible at the end of garden avenue
The pavilion was partly informed by the landscape of Waddesdon Manor

Informed by the highly decorative ceramic traditions of Lisbon – where Vasconcelos lives and works – the sculptural pavilion is also a contemporary response to the Rothschild history of hospitality, combining ideas from 18th-century garden pavilion design.The baroque decoration of the Wedding Cake was informed by the architecture of the main house and designed to complement the collections inside it.Image of the Dior installationImage of the Dior installation Dior catwalk features 24-metre-long “tentacular” installation by Joana Vasconcelos It was intended as “a playful addition to the rich and varied history of the wedding cake”. The project stands in a grove of trees at Waddesdon alongside the 19th-century dairy.Vasconcelos’ work often incorporates colour and light, manipulating scale to dramatic effect and using familiar daily objects in surprising and inventive ways.

Tiles made by Viúva Lamego in PortugalTiles made by Viúva Lamego in Portugal
The tiles, manufactured by Portuguese company Viúva Lamego, continue inside the pavilion

Her work explores notions of domesticity, femininity, empowerment and the tension between private and public realms.Other recent projects by Joana Vasconcelos featured on Dezeen include a 24-metre-long textile tentacle installation for Dior’s Autumn Winter 2023 catwalk show. She also exhibited in the opening room of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2018, curated by Grayson Perry.The photography is by Chris Lacey and Merriman Photography.

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