Columbus, Ohio USA
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Tim Lai ArchitecT
Competition winner to create park pavilion
By Margaret Marten
January/February 2016 Issue

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Tim Lai and Eliza Ho Photo Stephen Tackas

The architectural firm Tim Lai ArchitecT was selected from among three finalists in a competition to design a pavilion for Italian Village Park, the 0.8 acre public park located on Hubbard Avenue just east of High Street. Lai and two other finalists presented their concepts at a public meeting in November, after which a seven-member advisory panel chose Lai’s design for the Italian Park pavilion. The competition was launched in June 2015 with the help of the Neighborhood Design Center and the city of Columbus.

The estimated $350,000 project will target construction of a pavilion on the western edge of the park to stage concerts, movies, theater productions, festivals and small sports tournaments, community picnics and potlucks. The Wood Cos. has pledged $100,000 toward the project. One of their own developments, Parkside on Pearl, a 42-unit apartment building, will be constructed behind Haiku restaurant adjacent to the park. It’s location has caused some concern because of its proximity, but Mark Wood, president of the Wood Cos., said he believes his building will provide a nice backdrop to the park. The city’s Urban Infrastructure Recovery Fund will finance the remaining $250,000 for the pavilion and other park amenities – benches, play equipment, storage and lighting.

Tim Lai and his wife Eliza Ho of Tim Lai ArchitecT are no strangers to Italian Village. They designed The Market Italian Village at 1022 Summit St. which opened in 2014. Their work for that project received an American Institute of Architects Merit Award in 2015.

Lai and Ho approached the pavilion project with an eye towards maintaining the dynamics of the existing landscape – the great oval lawn and trio of mature trees. “The park itself is structured or created in a very symmetrical way,” said Ho. “With the great lawn as the center. So what we’re trying to do is not create two elements that compete with each other.”

In fact, their proposal, Five Pavilions, embodies the concept of co-existence. Five mini-structures of different sizes, colors, and shapes are clustered together between the trio of large existing trees, constituting a limb-like non-intrusive feature into the park. “We have a lot of vertical elements, the poles,” said Lai. “Part of it is to create the tree-growth idea. When you’re outside those vertical elements, it’s like part of the tree. When you’re inside under the pavilion, you feel like you are under the tree essentially.”

Rendition of Five Pavilions

The competition guidelines recommended that the pavilion either incorporate art or exist as a functional object of art in harmony with the spirit of the Short North while at the same time reflecting the diversity of the Italian Village neighborhood. Five Pavilions is multi-functional, colorful and fluid in design. The five permanent structures can be visually combined and used for one function or shared among two or more. “On a day-to-day basis, and even for small events, you can have one or two for one thing and then the other,” Lai explained.

Dedicated to the memory of Carl C. Proto, the Italian Village Park became public use in the summer of 1982 and underwent renovations in 2009. It currently has a picnic area, playground, large trees and green space. “I think there’s a history,” said Lai, “and we want to respect that. We don’t want to do more than what we need to do.”

Asked if they had ever designed a pavilion before, the couple laughed. Willow Theater, a collaborative work they built with Brad Steinmetz, won the World Stage Design sustainable theater design competition in 2013 and an American Institute of Architects Merit Award in 2014. Constructed for a 10-day international festival of theater, opera, and dance at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff, Wales, the pavilion with recyclable stage became a major art installation and venue for different performances, lectures, and conferences.

Tim Lai holds a Master of Architecture degree from the Southern California Institute of Architecture. Eliza Ho, an interior designer, earned a master’s degree in Art History from Ohio State University. More than two dozen of their projects can be viewed online at

© 2016 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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