Joana Vasconcelos’ “Wedding Cake” Pavilion: Where Art Meets History

a large statue in front of a building

In a culmination of close to half a decade's work, the lush environs of Waddesdon Manor in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire now boast a towering masterpiece. Spanning an impressive height of 12 meters, a splendid confectionary stands tall, meticulously crafted to perfection.

The Waddesdon Manor, already an architectural gem with a rich tapestry of history, becomes an even grander spectacle with this addition. The location of this manor isn't just any random choice. Located in the heart of Buckinghamshire, the manor itself has witnessed centuries of history, and now it finds itself home to this modern work of art.

Joana Vasconcelos, an accomplished Portuguese artist with a flair for marrying the contemporary with the traditional, is the mastermind behind this enormous "Wedding Cake" pavilion. Strategically placed near the 19th-century Dairy, this pavilion is not just an architectural marvel but also pays homage to Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild's vision. The Dairy was once a hub of entertainment for the elite, a testament to the Baron's penchant for grandeur. This new addition draws parallels with the past, invoking the manor's legacy of captivating its visitors and providing them with not just a visual treat but an engaging narrative.

The "Wedding Cake" isn't a standalone piece but rather draws inspiration from the rich architectural tradition of follies. For the uninitiated, follies are structures built predominantly for their ornamental value. Their presence isn't determined by utility but rather their ability to augment the beauty of their surroundings. The world has seen iconic follies such as Marie Antoinette’s hamlet nestled in the iconic grounds of Versailles or the whimsically structured Dunmore Pineapple in Scotland.

a statue in front of a building

Vasconcelos’ design is a rich tapestry of influences. While on one hand, it reverberates with the Baroque style's opulence, on the other, it subtly nods to Waddesdon Manor's storied past of hosting lavish events and offering unparalleled hospitality. Furthermore, the design isn't just architectural but also deeply symbolic. It pays tribute to the evolution of the cake, a delicacy that has been an integral part of numerous traditions and ceremonies across cultures and timelines.

This piece de resistance wouldn't have seen the light of day without the patronage of the Rothschild Foundation. Every layer of this three-tiered marvel is enveloped in exquisite ceramic tiles. This choice of material isn't arbitrary but stems from Vasconcelos' roots. Lisbon, her hometown, is renowned for its rich tradition of ceramic craftsmanship. This pavilion, thus, becomes a canvas where her personal experiences mesh seamlessly with universal aesthetics.

The pavilion doesn't stop at being a visual delight. Its intricate details, like the pâtisserie-inspired adornments of fish diving into shell bowls, juxtaposed with ornate lacy ironwork bathed in pastel hues, are a testament to Vasconcelos' unparalleled craftsmanship. The structure is not merely to be admired from a distance. It beckons visitors to experience it from within, guiding them through serpentine stairwells and offering panoramic views from its multiple tiers.

For those enchanted by Vasconcelos' genius, a deeper dive into her oeuvre is a must. Her portfolio, a blend of the traditional and avant-garde, can be explored further on her official website and her Instagram.

Sources: This elaborate narration on the "Wedding Cake" pavilion draws from an article on Dezeen, among other architectural journals.

Photos by Chris Lacey and Lionel Balteiro.

a close up of a stone building