Feature

An Unseen Place

Scott Lorenzen’s project to document the mysterious McNeal 020 Pavillion, hidden somewhere in Southern Arizona.

From nowhere, down into nothing, from nothing, back out into nowhere. From where all that exists is unseen, out into where the unseen is all that exists.

An Unseen Place is a personal project I completed in 2021, after painstakingly hunting down the secret location of the McNeal 020 Pavilion. Zero to Zero Pavilion is architecture for art’s sake, and I tasked myself to locate it and to visually convey the meaning of this mysterious place, and its greater emotional message about the human relationship with nature and the built environment.

McNeal 020 emerged from a shared desire between David Telerman and a private client based in France to build a perennial structure in the American desert. The two shared a fascination for the surrealist nature of the works of artists such as Max Ernst. The simplicity and juxtaposition of the pavilion are inspired by such surrealist ideas.

The McNeal 020 Pavilion is an experiential and truly immersive piece of surrealist architecture located in a broad and remote desert valley in the Southern Arizona desert. Its desert setting – the first ‘zero’ in the 020 name – is bleak, empty and harsh. The long journey to the site is one of environmental subtraction, as one leaves behind one’s home climate to gradually enter this great open space, and this continues when approaching the pavilion. Set within the ground, the pavilion drops 10 feet into the desert soil, and in dialogue with the remote valley in which it is situated, remains hidden from view until reaching its edge.

Descending, step by step, into the structure’s open portion the journey of subtraction continues. Light on concrete informs the eye of an endless space without the contact of nature, a sterilized chronicity of shadows and light until the last view of the surrounding environment disappears behind the stark ever-narrowing concrete stairways, and entry into the covered inner building is made (the second ‘zero’ of its name).

From within this oppressive, silent, and dark room a new journey begins – that of the ‘return to nature’ and the slow additive process of ascent from the powerful, visually, and mentally confining concrete forms.

The McNeal 020 Pavilion demonstrates the power of architecture to transform human feeling and effect a greater meaning of place. It is a space that becomes transcendental, as the rhythms of light on its precise forms visually define temporal and physical space.

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The photographer

Scott Lorenzen

Based in San Diego, Scott holds onto the stream-wading, tadpole-collecting curiosity of his boyhood, and is driven by a desire to connect with and convey big feelings and big ideas.

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