Building Simplexity

Monday 12 Mar 2012

LEAD show how minimal design can have the maximum effect

Translation from digital into matter is treacherous, especially when limited budgets and a questionable culture of craftsmanship are available. These two Hong Kong projects by the Laboratory for Explorative Architecture and Design (LEAD) depict how their integrative design approach capitalises on the regionally available digital design and fabrication technology, allowing for the realisation of highly complex effects with the simplest of means.

The Dragon Skin Pavilion was built for the 2011-12 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of UrbanismArchitecture, in collaboration with EDGE Laboratory for Architectural and Urban Research (TUT, Finland). The Pavilion utilises a new type of plywood that incorporates layers of adhesive film to allow easy single-curved bending without the need for steam or extreme heat. With no material loss, a CNC mill divided 21 8x4 plywood sheets into eight identical squares and accurately cut the unique slots programmed into the pavilion geometry. Using one single mould, all panels were bent into the same shape, and within six hours the numbered shells were slotted into place using no plans, glue nor screws. The underlying equilibrium surface geometry removed all internal forces or deformations from the pavilion, which became a self-supporting, free-standing, light-weight skin with highly tactile tectonic properties and unique lighting effects.

The Shine Fashion Store, completed in 2011 in collaboration with NC Design & Architecture, has a ceiling built from over 900 white industrial rubber bungee cords, stretched between two undulating plasma-jet cut steel profiles and three standard U-profiles. The overlapping surfaces of interwoven lines create starkly contrasting Moiré patterns against the dark ceiling backdrop. Alluding to principles of Op Art and referring to graphical experimentation in paintings of Victor Vasarely and others, the architecture actively plays on the shopper's perception, where walking underneath the canopy generates an illusion of geometric movement: swelling, warping patterns emerge and hidden vibrating images appear.

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