The Winter Pavilion
By: Breck Crandell, Jad Chedid, Michael Neal
The pavilion was born out of a list of goals. For the group, it was their very first endeavor with digital fabrication. They were familiar with makeLab and its projects, but unfamiliar with the tools, processes, and software. Taking existing skills (hand craft, energy, and ambition) and limitations (digital fabrication experience, time and finances) into consideration, the group set the goal to create a space that provided coverage for smokers during the winter season.
The original pavilion designs were so complex that given the time constraints at hand, there would have been no chance of success. After a mid-semester review, it became painfully clear that the design needed to be simplified. The initial discussions aimed to create standardized pieces held together by unique connections. Trial and error showed that standardized shapes would inevitably lead the project to look as if formed by a repeating pattern. So, in order to achieve a dynamic design, the team opted for the inverse: unique pieces connected by a standardized connection.
Responding to financial constraints, the team began a material search. In a classic scenario of being in the right place at the right time, the group was granted permission to salvage a storage unit worth of materials which they were encouraged then to reuse and repurpose. The connection pieces, fabricated using the CNC, are reclaimed acrylic scraps from a project elsewhere on campus. The only material purchased was a fabric-like material that was waterproof, weather-resistant, and durable. At the suggestion of Professor Stevens, the group took a risk and ordered an economy-size roll of plain white Tyvek house-wrap.
The general idea was to trim down reclaimed lumber to a manageable size of 2×1” boards which were used to create geometric frames. They took advantage of newly developed software skills in a program introduced only weeks ago. Each individual frame that formed the pavilion was designed and modeled in Rhino. The Tyvek was then stretched it across the frames to create unique geometric shapes that would form an organic whole. The result was a “happy accident.” The Tyvek succeeded in all the necessary parameters, but it also engaged extremely well with light. When backlit, the material revealed figural transparency. In early prototypes, they realized that silhouettes of figures within the pavilion would be projected through the walls. The hinges were another “happy accident” because the acrylic material was formed from recycled milk jugs giving them a frosted white color that absorbed and reflected light, complimenting the aura of the pavilion.
Due to the size and scale of the project, the team entered a repetitive production mode which incorporated a healthy balance between digital fabrication and physical labor. The bulk of the work was done in a familiar and comfortable fashion by hand with tools that were well known. Meanwhile, use of the unfamiliar CNC was optimized to give the most value for the least amount of runtime. This meant that two-thirds of the group constantly built frames while the remaining member always fabricated connection pieces using the ShopBot CNC. Altogether, production all of the necessary pieces of the pavilion was completed within ten [±] days.
During the assembly process, multiple issues were encountered. Assembling an eight foot tall and twelve foot long wall within a room with a seven foot door left the team trapped. Dismantled and moved, it was during the reassembly process outdoors that it was first realized large amounts of fabric stretched taut across frames built a massive kite. In a desperate effort, the studios of Lawrence Tech were searched to recruit any able-bodied student willing to brave the cold. A barn-raising ritual ensued, and the four walls were erected in a matter of hours. Due to the cold and commodity of time, volunteers left and the team was left alone to complete the pavilion. After donning Carharts and braving the coldest all-nighter to date, the pavilion was completed by sunrise. Within hours, word had spread and smokers throughout the university migrated towards their new-found shelter.