Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture
PROJECT: DRAGON SKIN PAVILION, 2012
LOCATION: HONG KONG
SIZE: 16 SQM
CLIENT: HONG KONG BIENNALE OF ARCHITECTURE \ URBANISM
EMMI KESKISARJA (FI)
KRISTOF CROLLA (BE)
SEBASTIEN DELAGRANGE (BE)
PEKKA TYNKKYNEN (FI)
The Dragon Skin Pavilion was built for the 2011-12 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture. It challenges and explores the spatial, tactile, and material possibilities architecture is offered today by revolutions in digital fabrication and manufacturing technology. It is a study on how architects can reassert control over parts of the construction process previously surrendered to factories and contractors, and how this enables them to materialize discoveries from the digital into the built environment.
The Pavilion is a non-ruled, double curved, freeform structure, which uses gravity as a driver for its shape and combines its geometric considerations with mechanical aspects of its fabrication and assembly. The structure starts from an equilibrium surface derived from two catenary lines that form the intersection with the ground plane. Within this constrained working space curved shells are distributed on the surface and their location and orientation is iteratively fine-tuned to allow for a rigid interlocking with a simple sliding joint.
The shells are made from a new thermoformable plywood, which incorporates layers of adhesive film to allow easy single-curved bending without the need for steam or extreme heat. The dimensions of the shells are selected to avoid material loss: a CNC mill divides twenty-one 8x4ft plywood sheets into eight identical square panels, and accurately cuts the unique connection slots that were programmed into the pavilion geometry (slightly over-dimensioned for easy assembly). The combination of a new material and contemporary digital design and fabrication methods allows to execute an accurate construction process without the need of skilled labour or conventional on-site communication methods like plans or drawings.
Using one single mold, all panels are bent into the same single-curved shape, and within six hours the numbered shells are slotted into place without using any plan drawings, glue or screws. The underlying equilibrium surface geometry removes all internal forces and deformations from the pavilion, which becomes a self-supporting, free-standing, light-weight skin.
The duality of the pavilion is present in the very different inside and outside surfaces of it. The outer surface creates a protectionist, aggressive, although lightweight shell pierced with dark holes. All the while the inside is a softer experience, a blanket composed of plates that on one side seem to raise an armada of planes that end up collapsing onto themselves right on the other side of the arch.
A careful balance takes place between the regular, repetitive framework of the rectangular panels and their gradually changing interconnections as they configure the overall shape. The emerging patterns and rhythms of the pavilion challenge the perception of structure versus structurally defined ornament.