Pavilions temper the transition from fully enclosed climate-controlled interior spaces to utterly exposed outdoor experiences. They allow occupants to enjoy the best parts of being in nature—a soft breeze, the musical call of a bird, perfumes of aromatic flora, or dancing reflections from nearby water—all while being sheltered from the hot sun or a summer storm. The simple structures act as focal points for outdoor spaces and landscaping. They also allow an architect or designer to occasionally indulge in a bit of whimsy and create a building that becomes part of the view.

Most pavilions consist of a roof and a floor with perhaps one wall, but a space that’s mostly open to the elements. Some of the projects shown in the accompanying slideshow extend their seasonal lives with disappearing glass walls, hot running water, fireplaces, and other modern conveniences. Regardless of the number of amenities, the concept of a pavilion is always the same. Architect David Montalba says it perfectly when describing his Santa Monica pool pavilion: “The idea was to do as little enclosure as we could.”

More Pavilions

  • Georgian Exposure

    A regal pool pavilion designed for muggy Mid-Atlantic summers.

  • Pool Houses

    More than a place to put a beer fridge and a shower, a pool house can act as a mini vacation spot.

  • Dominey Pavilion, Decatur, Ga.

    Merit Award: Outdoor Spaces

  • Great Falls, Va.

    A diminutive 196 square feet in plan, this simple pavilion makes a big statement about the power of architecture to enhance an already special environment.

  • Grand Award

    A set of concrete steps leads from the yard down to the cantilevered dock. The standing-seam metal roof and built-in wooden benches make the project a perfect place for lazing away a hot summer day.

  • Grand Pavilion

    Architect Audrey Matlock devised a plan to link this house to its environment without tearing it down and starting over. “We took living spaces and made entire walls into operable doors, and next to those we created outdoor spaces that are usable.”

  • O'Brien Pool Pavilion, Greenwich, Conn.

    Combining a roofed shelter and a trellised seating area, this pool pavilion draws on traditional Indian architecture.

  • Nevis Pool and Garden Pavilion, Bethesda, Md.

    A modern pavilion negotiates the space between manicured and natural landscapes.