Forest Pavilion

PARAMETRIC DESIGN OF COMPLEX TOPOLOGIES

This project was developed during a workshop dedicated to McNeel Rhinoceros and its plug-in Grasshopper, held by Giulio Piacentino, Marco Vannucci and Annarita Papeschi, with the contribution of Andrea Graziano and Alessio Erioli. The design topic was focused on a small expo pavilion, into which synthesize simple geometries and complex shapes, abstract volumes and topologies referred to the world of nature. The design process started with the choice of a title, which opens this description, and a simple sketch giving an early image of the building to realize.

The pavilion is thought as an endless and organic space, where the structure becomes a fluid element, recalling shape of trees and, on the other hand, the pattern generated by the overlapping leaves traversed by the daylight. This concept is embodied by a self-portant canopy, which touches its basement in three points. Beside the restitution of a highly evocative image, these points allow loads transmission to the terrain, being also useful during the evacuation of rainwater collected on the roof.

The structure is completed by a lightweight and flexible membrane, which partially interpolate its shape, protecting the internal space from bad weather and conveying rain waters into the three contact points. The membrane, realized with materials deriving from textile technologies, will be fixed to the edges (steel maiden tubular beams defining the perimeter of the canopy).

The complex and organic shape of the canopy creates a neat contrast with the vertical envelope of the pavilion, composed by a series of thin steel columns, which constitute a support for the glass surfaces of the façade (glass can be substituted with another material with equal strength and resistance along time). The second strong geometric element is the basement, which slightly elevates the ground floor where the building is placed. The expressive result of this composition shows a continuous and endless space, interrupted by the façade envelope. This last becomes a section line, physical and imaginary. The canopy is defined by components, which populate each single face of the mesh. The nearer the component is to the basement, the more strong and dense it is. The farer the component is the more lightweight it is.

The whole project was developed with McNeel Rhinoceros and, in particular, through the plug-in Grasshopper, that allows a parametric/generative approach to the design process. The early basis is a flat NURBS surface and a series of autonomous control points (they anticipate the numbers and the position of the canopy bearings). A point grid is extracted by the surface with a u,v coordinate map. The grid is then deformed to obtain the final shape of the structure. During a second stage I created the façade system, the basement and the terrain, which is derived from a photo (is possible to use an orthophoto in order to simulate the real terrain). At the end of the process I designed the single component, which has been applied to each triangle of the Delaunay’s mesh, obtained from the point grid. Once designed the component, it has been repeated and adapted on the mesh, obtaining a highly complex geometry.

The fully parametric approach allows to interactively modify the dimensions of the pavilion, the number and the position of the bearings, the characteristics of the component and its behavior, the dimension of edge beams and façade columns. Every single aspects linked to the building can be adapted anytime is needed, with time and energy savings and without rethinking the digital model.

The complexity of this canopy, once populated with adaptive components, wasn’t previously expectable and emerges from the association of a single element, designed into its minimal details, and the variations of the surface into its domain. Anyway, going deep with further stages of the design process, is always possible to analyze the canopy geometries, extracting information about surfaces, single adaptive components, dimensions, points, edges lengths and all the details that are necessary for a better definition of the project, aiming to evolve it during more advanced steps.

Once determined a good configuration for the pavilion is possible to “bake” it in Rhinoceros availing a special command, in order to continue with further editing or prototyping some models through cnc machines.

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