A striking prefabricated monocoque pavilion has popped up in London, bringing with it a social-enterprise cafe and multifunctional community space. Developed as part of the City of London Corporation’s transformation of the Aldgate gyrator into one of the largest public spaces in London’s Square Mile, the Portsoken Pavilion is a striking sculptural landmark that’s distinctive in its contemporary form yet sensitive to its heritage surroundings. Local architecture practice Make Architects designed the sculptural structure with a Corten canopy featuring large overhangs to provide solar shading and channel rainwater runoff.

pavilion with reddish weathered steel folded roof

People walking past weathered steel and glass pavilion

Spanning an area of nearly 3,500 square feet, the Portsoken Pavilion comprises a single light-filled level above ground as well as a basement area — reclaimed from former underground subway space — that houses plant, back-of-house facilities, kitchens and toilets. Local social enterprise Kahaila will run the pavilion’s cafe and multifunctional community space, which opens up to a new landscaped and pedestrian-friendly area. The origami-like roof is built from Corten cladding panels and folds down to touch the ground at three triangular support points; full-height glazing wraps around the exposed sides. Weathered steel was chosen as a nod to the brown brick of the Grade I-listed St. Botolph Without Aldgate church and the red brick Grade II-listed Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary school that sit on either side of the new square.

pavilion at dusk with view of interior cafe

pavilion in daytime with outdoor seating and large glass doors open to the interior cafe

“The final scheme is beautiful — distinctive, yet respectful of the heritage architecture surrounding it,” said project architect Sarah Shuttleworth. “It provides a bespoke civic amenity and the ambition and determination of the City of London Corporation to persist and deliver the square and the pavilion — despite the challenges — in order to transform this parcel of London for the benefit of the local community, should be applauded.”

pavilion and surrounding square

close up of corten cladding

Related: Make Architects unveil igloo-shaped cinema made from reclaimed cardboard in London

The three glazed elevations of the parametrically designed pavilion face the three key pedestrian approaches to the square. The structure was prefabricated and weathered off site before it was reassembled and welded in situ. The underside of the steelwork was sprayed with 150 millimeters of insulation to minimize heat loss, while the constant temperature of the concrete tunnels that run below the structure help regulate the temperature in the cafe year-round.

+ Make Architects

Images via Make Architects