Eighteen months ago, we featured concept designs for a pavilion by students at McGill University in Montreal. The wooden street furniture is a twisted latticework structure and offers a place for students to socialise and contemplate in their downtime. Now complete, we are delighted to bring you these stunning images and an account of the design and build process compiled by the team.
A collection of students have completed the ContemPLAY Pavilion, a cantilevering mobius strip clad in a moiré lattice. Designed to engage the downtown campus at several scales, the pavilion was completed as part of an advanced construction course focusing on parametric design.
Set in the downtown campus of the university, this student-led initiative was a collaboration with FARMM (Facility for Architecture Research and Media Mediation), the university and local partners to investigate the relationship between design and fabrication in the digital era. Made of entirely stock materials sourced from within the community, local industry played a pivotal role in the construction of the pavilion.
The pavilion, which is a three dimensional mobius strip, articulated by a space frame structure, is imagined as an artifact that engages the campus at several scales. Intentionally ambiguous, from afar the pavilion interacts with people in various playful ways due to the Moire lattice which distorts the visual field as one is in motion. Up close, the space becomes contemplative as one is enveloped by the wall which morphs into the canopy. The design was the result of a three month collaborative design process, which led to the resolution of the built form though parametric design tools.
The complexity of the pavilion’s geometry creates a unique opportunity to undertake research through parametric modeling and digital fabrication. Parametric modeling consists of establishing a set of dynamic geometrical relationships to ultimately produce an entity with fixed dimensions. Its main advantage lies in rapid and flexible design exploration: designers can develop virtual prototypes, and simultaneously test the implications of changes on each of the multidisciplinary constraints shaping the project. For example, this type of parametric modeling played a decisive role in the evaluation of the influence of the space frame structure on the intended Moire effect of the cladding.
The selection of the möbius strip as a form necessitated a design which would eventually require large numbers of similar yet unique components, in order to resolve its continuously changing curvature. To deal with the formal complexity of the project, the team wrote a customised program in Grasshopper(a graphical scripting interface) to generate design iterations, create concept proofs, and mock-ups.
A driving principle in the design of the pavilion program was minimum static input and maximum dynamic derivation. Other than some numerical constants related to the real-world dimensions of construction materials, the program only required two simple geometric inputs: a digitally modeled möbius strip surface (representing the general shape and proportions) and a simple curve (used to derive the profiles of the cladding). The program then generated all of the 2,200 individually unique elements in 3D space and the documentation required to manufacture them.
The project took 15 months to complete and was made using in-house and local technology, working together with the community to build a publicly accessible pavilion. It is part of the McGill School of Architecture M.Arch_DSR program.