Assignment: Project 2

“The pavilion is part of an ongoing discussion with myself about materiality, light and space. It’s another iteration dealing with the merging of construction, space, detail, ornament.”
—David Adjaye

The concept car is a critical instrument in the advancement of the automotive field. Created to test new technological and aesthetic ideas, the concept car’s purpose is to provide a proof-of-concept demonstration of a design hypothesis—thus making the future palpable. Every creative field has its own version of the concept car. Fashion has prototype garments, for example, while electrical engineering uses breadboards. In architecture, the concept car equivalent is the pavilion.

As small-scale, temporary structures that are often unconditioned (some don’t even provide shelter), pavilions are model platforms for exploration, unencumbered by many of the restrictions placed on buildings. Pavilions often embody radical ideas for new structural technologies and material applications, and demonstrate the potential of these ideas to a wide audience for relatively little investment. Shigeru Ban’s 22-meter tall Paper Tower, constructed entirely of paper tubes connected by metal joints—or Thomas Heatherwick’s Seed Cathedral, an immersive seed bank clad in 60,000 acrylic rods—are examples of structures whose powerfully innovative ideas have exerted a broad influence in spite of their temporary existence.

One of the most successful platforms for pavilion design is the Landmark Projects component of the annual London Design Festival. The Size + Matter exhibition, in particular, gives architects the opportunity to explore an innovative application of a particular material technology. According to the London Design Festival website, “Size + Matter creates unique installations by teaming a leading designer or architect with a unique material or process. Size + Matter is one of the London Design Festival’s cornerstones, pairing a leading designer or architect with a material or manufacturing process. We ask them to explore the dynamic between their own creativity and the material or process.” Past examples include pavilions designed by David Adjaye, Shigeru Ban, David Chipperfield, Zaha Hadid, and Amanda Levete.

For this assignment, you are to design a pavilion for the next Size + Matter exhibition based on a material technology of your choice. The structure should be a minimum of one-story in height and at least partially enclosed (protection against the elements is optional). The floor area of your pavilion should range between roughly 50 and 150 square meters (~540 and 1,600 SF). The structure can be compartmentalized into multiple rooms, or frame a single volume. Your pavilion will be situated in the plaza located to the southeast of Royal Festival Hall (facing Belvedere Road) at London’s Southbank Centre (see map, above).

You should use the techniques developed in Project 1 for your material selection. This time, however, you must incorporate design iteratively in your decision-making process as follows:

  • Survey
    Populate a collection of material data and images for potential material selection. This information can come from manufacturer catalogs, articles, your own photos of particular buildings, and other sources. Unlike the first project, in which you addressed materials according to context, typology, and technology, here you may select materials more freely in accordance with the exhibition’s expectations for experimentation and innovation. You should consider both a) materials that are newly developed and largely untested, as well as b) existing materials that may be used in novel ways. Include descriptions of material meaning with your selections—why are these materials interesting or important for study? Why are they worthy of use in an international design exposition?
  • Testing and Evaluation
    From your survey, narrow your list to one to three materials that you think have particular promise, and formulate preliminary design concepts (hypotheses) for your materials’ applications and their resulting socio-environmental effects. Develop at least three preliminary design schemes based on these approaches (one material for each scheme, or several schemes based on the same material). Your design explorations should consider both the whole pavilion as well as of the material unit, and must take important aspects such as structural integrity, constructibility, and disassembly/reusability into account. Include data and photos of your selected material(s), precedents of established applications, and preliminary design sketches for assistance in decision-making.
  • Selection and Final Design
    Based on your assessment of the most innovative material application, develop a single design for your pavilion and present it with at least one of each of the following drawings*: plan, section, elevation, material detail, exterior perspective, interior perspective. The plan,section, and elevation should be at the same scale as one another; otherwise, you are free to choose the scale of your drawings. For extra credit, build a physical (not digital) model of your pavilion and photograph it for your presentation.

*Drawings can be line drawings, rendered drawings, or digital-analog hybrid drawings that include overlays on model photographs.

As in the first project, this will be a team-based assignment. Select two or three of your fellow students (to make a team of three or four people) and discuss how you will approach the exercise as a group.

Your work will culminate in a mock presentation to the London Design Festival jury for which you exhibit three presentation boards, one for each stage above. Like last time, these “boards” will actually be projected in class (PDF, Keynote, or PowerPoint format), in landscape format, at a 4 x 3 aspect ratio (you could think of this as translating to three 40″ x 30″ posters for a client presentation). Each exhibit must be clearly titled and marked with the names of all team members. We will use two class periods for the presentations; however, all assignments are due on the first period. Please bring your team’s presentation in one electronic file to class on a zip drive or disc.

In addition, this assignment should serve as the basis for your online journal due the same week. Discuss among your team what each member will write about. For example, one member might write about your team’s survey of potential materials; another might write about a previously constructed Size + Matter pavilion; and another might write about your design proposal (at least one member must write about the actual proposal, and include images from your presentation boards with credit to the whole team).

In reality, this will not be a linear process, but a back-and-forth testing of options—especially between stages two and three. A successful outcome will likely require additional iterations of design schemes, which you may include in the margins of your third presentation board. As in writing, you are constructing an argument consisting of informed opinion based on claims and evidence. Your proposal should demonstrate an innovative application of materials, and you must demonstrate the rationale for your proposal to a target audience who may not share the same values.

Leaning Objectives
This assignment aims to achieve the following learning objectives:

Basic Objectives

  • To model basic research and design practices employed by architects
  • To test the principles of innovation in practice

Mediating Objectives

  • To evaluate material technologies from multiple perspectives, including conflicting views on existing or emerging technologies
  • To develop a critical framework for evaluating the social and environmental ramifications of material technologies

This assignment will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Clarity and purpose
  • Organization, coherence, and development
  • Flexibility and disciplinary appropriateness
  • Originality and engagement
  • Appropriate support
  • Proper editing and presentation
  • Meets basic requirements (presentation board count, board content, deadlines)

Sources that provide a good starting place for information about project criteria are as follows:

  • Innovation: emergent material technologies may be found in books like Transmaterial or on free websites such as and Examples of innovative material applications may be found in Material Strategies.
  • Sustainability: environmental evaluations may be found in GreenSpec or Environmental Building News (architecture library).
  • Application: information about product use and constructibility may be found in Architectural Graphic Standards, the Facade Construction Manual, Detail and The Plan magazines, and other common architectural materials and methods texts (architecture library).

Example Projects and Links

Project-Related Information
(excerpted from the London Design Festival 2012 website)

Our Landmark Projects projects have become very much the public face of the London Design Festival. Over the last few years we’ve been inviting some of the greatest designers and architects in the world to experiment with new materials and processes – often in some very familiar London spaces.

In 2012 we’re continuing to expand the scope of the Landmark Projects, showing off design’s ever expanding frontiers with projects like the BE OPEN Sound Portal in Trafalgar Square – where it’s the ambience around us that is being re-thought, or Keiichi Matsuda’s digital installation Prism at the V&A.

As Ben Evans, Festival Director explains: “The London Design Festival is not just about being big but being different. Though we’ve grown hugely – both in terms of the number of events in the Festival and the number of people flocking to see them – what really interests us is making each year different.

If one of the skills of design is to look at the world in new ways, that’s something we want to reflect. And that’s very much the theme behind our Landmark Projects this year.

“Take Keiichi Matsuda’s Prism at the V&A: it’s a different way of looking at London. Prism is a digital installation made of giant screens that are constantly changing as they absorb and process live data from around the capital. Like the city, it’s constantly in motion. And like John Pawson’s extraordinary installation at St Paul’s Cathedral last year, Prism opens up a space the public haven’t had access to before; the cupola at the top of the V&A’s central tower entrance.”

Using these sites around London on behalf of the Festival sites allows us to reach beyond our core audience of design fans and professionals. As Evans says, “We are also interested in reaching people who don’t really think they know what design is.”

Add spectacular, intelligent large scale installations, often created with public participation in mind, and you have a way of making great design a tangible, celebrated addition to London’s cityscape.

The London Design Festival’s Landmark Projects are something we’re very proud of; no other international design event has created such a remarkable legacy of public work, extending design’s vocabulary and drawing a huge public to the work of some of the world’s most innovative design thinkers.

Dowload the print version of this assignment here.


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