At Miami Basel, a digitally fabricated pavilion marries classic origami techniques with advanced technology
For this year’s inaugural Miami Project Fair, the design team at FXFOWLE Architects, led by Sarah Gerber, created a temporary architectural pavilion, the FXFOWLE Lounge, from both cutting-edge technology and good-old-fashioned manual labor. The 24-foot-long pavilion embodies the “duality of this very high-tech and sophisticated fabrication and this very low-tech material and assembly process,” said designer Lucio Santos. Over the next few days, the sculpture will be housed in a lounge and bar area outfitted with beanbag chairs and a carbon fiber bar that FXFOWLE also designed for the event.
In past years, architects such as David Adjaye, Marc Fornes & THEVERYMANY, and Rachely Rotem and Phu Hoang (now of Modu), have designed temporary pavilions for Miami Basel—introducing their work to a wider audience. This project is “a first” Santos said, but this might be changing for FXFOWLE, which is trying to branch out on the digital side of architecture.
“FXFOWLE has never designed a pavilion like this fully utilizing scripted computational methods for design and fabrication. We typically work on much larger scale projects where computational and parametric processes are sometimes used in conceptual design phases for form finding and especially for facade studies,” Santos said. “The office is making an active effort to explore the potential of different digital tools, platforms, and workflows. We have used this pavilion as an internal research project and will continue developing and integrating these digital processes to other projects in the office.”
From the get-go, Santos knew that FXFOWLE “wanted to create an organic sculptural form with a non-repetitive textural pattern utilizing computational design and fabrication methods.” Using RhinoScript, Santos and his colleagues created a series of scripts to first generate a pattern onto a base surface, then unroll and label each component, create tabs around each component for assembly, and generate score and cut lines for laser cutting. Through layer controls and color values, they were able identify all the components. And, since all 180 segments are unique, this enabled them to “organize the enormous quantity of components,” Santos explained.
The process, which required some dexterity, took three weeks of folding in-house, and then four days of assembling in Miami. Santos and his team—which included Kazuhiro Adachi, Karen Bookatz, and Miwa Fukui—set out to “test the structural properties of paper,” and then employed “basic origami techniques” using museum white board, which is typically used for picture frame mats. The segments were then assembled into 18 ribs (ten panels to a rib), held together by Elmer’s glue and a stock adhesive, and then secured with cable ties.
“It took a few iterations, but we finally found the right fit,” said Santos.