Caldwell Associates Architects participated in an international design competition for the Pavilion for Humanity: First Contact.  The Pavilion Of Humanity: First Contact architecture ideas competition challenges participants with designing a structure encapsulating the best and brightest of our species in a way that, should we ever be visited by other life forms, would allow them to learn about our achievements in a single space.

The Pavilion for Humanity is designed around humankind’s greatest achievement – an achievement unmatched in the known universe and is perhaps the most complex products of our consciousness – our expression of love to another person and our deep sense of wonder about our connection to one another, our origins, and the universe that manifests itself through our spirituality. These deeply rooted human impulses provide purpose to our lives, drive our greatest ambitions, connect us with others, and help ground us in the vastness of the universe.

Our solution proposes a building located in our hometown of Pensacola, FL – the first European settlement in the “new” world.  Conceived as a microcosm of humanity’s relation to the Earth, the building demonstrates the tension that the activity of architecture has with the natural environment by deliberately building on a site unfriendly to our biology. We embraced water’s significance to the building program as the origin of life allowing the narrative of life’s emergence from water to match its physical environment, removing the building from more conventional contexts where it, and its visitors, can more freely engage with the sky, the water, and the horizon – sites that innately draw the human mind to wander in the intellectual space of meaning, spirituality, and love.

In its form, the building encloses a portion of the natural world defining a permeable temporary and artificial ecosystem – allowing visitors to see both the internal exhibits, the artificial ‘lagoon,’ and others as they move through the building – a kind of foreshadowing that pulls the visitor through the space in a dynamic choreographed experience as they circumnavigate the building. The building is at once a place that suggests dynamic movement and transition – like a train station which harnesses the excitement of both the journey and the destination, and at the same time its inverse – a place of stasis and reflection, like a museum or a chapel.

The first building is a sequence of three galleries that document the story of mankind from clever ape, to conqueror of the natural world, to present day explorations beyond its planet and solar system. Visitors can take two paths through these galleries – a lower path along the floor or a ramping floor that slowly ascends through these double height galleries. The conclusion of this sequence is emerging out
of a skylit gallery onto an open platform where our connection to the universe and to one to another can be contemplated.

The second building houses the meeting rooms, workshops, a planetarium, and a café, with open air spaces for gathering that create an artificial “beach” and linear park suspended above the water. These more social areas of the building function to direct thought, encourage conversation, share knowledge, and foster communication that has evolved to be a such a powerful tool for our species
to connect with one another.