Under the vast sky of Southern Arizona in the US, McNeal 020 burrows into the expansive desert like an invisible monument. Its faint glow can only be seen at night, where the emitting light reflects the pool of stars above. The concrete pavilion rests like an architectural vessel modestly observing the changes of time.
Taking on the volume of an inverted pyramid, the design by Atelier David Telerman stretches its narrow paths in four directions like an axis of navigation. They form a centripetal force that pulls in all views and energy. At the centre, the built volume becomes an anti-thesis to the panopticon. Where the four sides converge at one point through a series of repetitive cascading stairs, a cubic volume sits to be watched. Its vantage points no longer exist, giving in to spectators from above and a single strip of light that moves with the flow of days.
Inside the cast-in-place concrete structure, a single low bench indicates a meditative space for stillness. The presence of silence—or lack of presence—becomes an amplifying point of isolation. McNeal 020 becomes a pilgrimage destination as the abode houses an eerie peacefulness, waiting for devotions towards architecture and minimalism. The inversion has made the pavilion an unseen object of desire and a brutalist satire of materialism.
Below ground level, sights of the sky are shaped into geometric fragments. They transform as you circle the disoriented tower under the extended arms of its roof. The stairs, with their crisp lines surrounding all four sides, construct a performative effect. Upon rising from beneath, you are overwhelmed with the panoramic view of emptiness. The sun shines from above, casting a shadow on the sandy imprints like a moment of enlightenment.
Not only is McNeal 020 a twist to the poetic American landscape, but it is also a testament to change. It is the vortex where the debris of time will gather, fill up the chamber and its slopes, bury the entire whole, and once again return the desert to what it once was.
Despite its apparent simplicity, the structure tends to express the contrast between two elements almost in a primitive way. The nature that gradually disappears down the stairs where you are surrounded by concrete marked by rays of light, and the view of nature that reappears in its vastness, the reddish ground, and the mountains in the far end.