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  • Tallinn Architecture Biennale Pavilion

    Andrea BAENA & Sophia NOWINA-KONOPKA, "Fragmented Monolith." Model.
    tallinn ESTONIA

    Tallin Architecture Biennale

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    Gilles RETSIN: The past decade has seen an explosion of parametric pavilion structures, built by architecture schools, research institutes and enthusiasts.

    These so-called “parametric pavilions” are remarkably similar: they are almost always based on a surface or shell, that is then split into thousands of different pieces and then painstakingly re-assembled into the desire form.

    This proposal is critical of this approach, and instead proposes to create a series of discrete building blocks, that similar to LEGO, can be assembled into a variety of structures. These building blocks are based on cheap, off-standard sheets of 18mm exterior plywood (3.3 x 1.35 m) which were locally available. Each sheet is cut by a CNC-machine, and can then be assembled into a stiff building block capable of bearing structural loads. The blocks exist as a family of straight,45 degrees, 90 degrees and 135 degrees elements. These building blocks are designed to perform “just good enough” in any structural condition: under compression, tension, as a cantilever or as a column. The blocks are protected from the exterior climate with black bitumen tar or varnish. Over 380 m2 of plywood was cut and assembled into 80 building blocks. The entire structure was fabricated locally in Tallinn, in collaboration with local manufacturers.

    Similar to a brick-bond, these discrete building blocks can be combined together into a staggered pattern, able to produce large beams and spans. The connection is based on off-the-shelf threaded rods, used in suspended ceilings or to hang cable gutters. These rods connect through several pieces, forming a stiff structure under tension.

    The blocks can be quickly assembled on site, using only a set of ratchet-spanners and bolts. The assembly remains reversible, it can be modified or taken apart afterwards. The whole pavilion, covering an area of 75 m2 was assembled in just 4 days by a crew of 4 people, without any mechanical tools such as a crane or lift. The pavilion is materially and structurally efficient: the overall weight of the pavilion is only 2 tons, while it can support local loads of four people and can be extended with a roof. Using only 18mm thin plywood, cantilevers of up to 4m and are achieved.

    The pavilion is more a case-study or prototype of a construction system rather than a finished form. In that sense it’s similar to Le Corbusier’s Maison Domino: an abstract model of a larger, recombinable and repeatable construction system. In contrast to the typical shell or surface-like parametric pavilions, this pavilion wants to be understood as a part of a larger whole, a unit in a mass-housing system. The horizontal organisation hints at the fact that it could be stacked and repeated in multiple directions. The pavilion is never finished: it remains an open and adaptable whole. The structure could be finished with a roof or facade and continue it’s life afterwards as a cabin, pedestrian bridge or house on another location.

    Additional Credits/Links:

    Designer: Gilles Retsin Architecture www.retsin.org
    Design Team: Gilles Retsin, Ivo Tedbury, Oscar Walheim
    Engineering: Manja van de Worp, YIP Structural Engineering London http://www.nousengineering.com/
    Construction Team: Isaie Bloch, Ward Delbeke, Gilles Retsin, Kevin Saey, Ivo Tedbury, Oscar Walheim
    Client: Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2017, http://2017.tab.ee/
    TAB Volunteers: Mari Poom, Ra Puhkan, Mia Peil, Elsbeth Aarsalu, Katariina Mustasaar, Henri Ingelman
    TAB Installation Curators: Sille Pihlak, Siim Tuksam
    With Support of The British Council
    Academic Partner: The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL Design Computation Lab http://designcomputationlab.org/ and Estonian Academy of Arts
    Pictures: Studio Naaro , http://www.naaro.com/
    Drone Footage : Tonu Tonnul, Manuel Jimenez Garcia