Trifolium by AR-MA

Fugitive Structures in an architectural design competition commissioned by SCAF (Sherman Contemporary Arts Foundation) in Sydney, Australia. It is an invited competition, run annually over four years that seeks to showcase emerging architects from Australia, the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. The brief was to explore the potential of digital pre-fabrication. In 2014,  were successful in securing the commission.

AR-MA’s design, “Trifolium”, is a fluid, continuous, event-space composed of self-supporting Corian with an interior of curved, black, mirror-polished stainless steel panels. Fabricated like a jewellery box, with over three-thousand unique parts, it is designed to less than 1mm of tolerance.

The pavilion is organised as three curved vaults which come together in a continuous and seamless surface. The three leaves are designed to divide the courtyard into smaller, more intimate spaces both within and outside the pavilion.

From the exterior, the self-supporting envelope is composed of 152 thermo-formed and CNC cut Corian panels. Each 19mm thick panel is rebated and slots together to form a water-tight surface. AR-MA worked with Alex Edwards from ARUP to engineer the surface using a finite element analysis model to monitor the material stiffness and strength.

The pavilion required custom coded software in order to design and fabricate. For each project, depending on the concept and complexity, AR-MA will write small scripts, plug-ins or even stand-alone programs that help model and interrogate the design, and ultimately link it to computer controlled fabrication.

The project reveals itself upon entering the interior. Glimpsed as one moves up to the pavilion, the black, mirror-polished panels reflect a myriad of views upon entering. The curved panels are designed to bring the outside in by reflecting the surrounding courtyard in and around the interior. It is about creating an affective and playful interior in which the reflections, views, light and shadow are constantly changing as you move through it. The reflections become more apparent as the sun sets and the 42 fibre-optic lights cast into concrete pavers reflect infinitely around the interior creating millions of stars overhead.

Holding the two skins together are 452 unique stainless steel brackets.  Each bracket is designed to be self-jigging during the welding process. It is also designed so that it can only be go together one way in order to reduce risk during manufacture.

The fabrication took three months of CNC routing, laser-cutting, welding and thermo-forming at Ox Engineering in Sydney, with the architects taking part in the fabrication and installation themselves. AR-MA had a team at the factory programming and running the 5-axis CNC router and a team on-site. With over three-thousand unique pieces, the architectural project became a logistical one of getting the right material to the right place at the right time.

Info and images © AR-MA

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