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An aluminum prototype structure at FRAC explores non-linear design and fabrication
The new nonLin/Lin Pavilion at the FRAC Centre in Orleans, France, is a coral-like structure of 40 pre-assembled white aluminum modules made of 570 CNC-cut single components punched with 155,780 asterisk-shaped CNC-drilled holes and held together by 75,000 white aluminum rivets. But these pieces, as designer Marc Fornes of THEVERYMANY has demonstrated throughout his work, are much more than the sum of their parts. Neither an art installation nor a model, the pavilion is full-scale architecture that pushes the limits of its materials and of physical fabrication processes with custom computational protocols.
The pavilion’s form began with the idea of a “Y” model—essentially the most basic form of multi-directionality. The study indicates Fornes’ interest in architecture’s shift away from linear spaces, including tube and doughnut shapes, to tri-partite forms that cannot be described through one bi-directional surface. Even in the avant-garde architectural repertoire, writes Fornes in his project brief, the bi-directional surface is still often the main medium of representation: “In order to resolve such an issue, it is required to address morphological models of change and introduce split or recombination—or in other words, how can one become two and two become one.”
The computational model developed to create the structure describes it as a set of linear, machinable elements that can be unrolled and cut out of flat aluminum sheets. But the process could not be applied globally to the pavilion; that strategy would fail because the structure’s “defects” are recurring yet shifting. Nodes contain varying numbers of branches, and double-curvatures and radii are constantly shifting. Instead, the model was designed to create an individual solution to each surface while keeping in mind nearby conditions including branches and holes, connections, end rings, and open edges. Though the amount of variation is massive, the information was translated to a series of stripes that would be CNC-cut, drilled, or engraved into 4-by-8-foot sheets of aluminum. Machining took less than 2 ½ hours, but pre-assembly using pneumatic rivet guns to fasten the stripes into 40 modules took several weeks. Now part of the FRAC’s permanent collection, the self-supporting structure is 30 by 18 by 15 feet. Fornes’ model is also scalable to a degree and could appear in other applications in the future, but even at the current size it will inspire visitors to think bigger.