Location: Rome, Italy
Client: Volvo Car Italia
1st Place 2013 Switch to Pure Volvo Pavilion Design Competition, Completed in September 2013
Structural Engineering: Buro Happold Los Angeles (Greg Otto, Stephen Lewis, Ron Elad)
Fabrication: Fabric Images (Jason Gilette, Leo Boczar, Sam Lugiano)
The “PURE Tension” Volvo Pavilion, a collaborative effort between Synthesis Design + Architecture, Buro Happold, and Fabric Images, is a lightweight, rapidly deployable, free-standing tensioned membrane structure and portable charging station commissioned by Volvo Car Italia to showcase the new Volvo V60 Hybrid Electric Diesel car. Officially to be launched in Rome, Italy in September 2013, this experimental structure was developed through a process of rigorous research and development that investigated methods of associative modeling, dynamic mesh relaxation, geometric rationalization, paneling, and material performance. These explorations illustrate the dialogue between design, engineering, and fabrication that define this project.
The project aspires to reinvent the typical trade show pavilion through its combination of dynamic form, optical effects and flexibility and adaptability to the space. The structure for the pavillion is highlighted by a uniquely sensual and continuous form composed of a tensioned HDPE Mesh skin with embedded PV panels and a perimeter ring made of carbon fiber rods. The effect of the structure’s organic form, perforated mesh, and PV transparent panels provides a striking graphic identity to Volvo’s V60 model which encourages visual and spatial interaction while simultaneously enabling different configurations to accommodate a variety of activities including: vendors, demonstrations, car trade shows.
The uniqueness of the design comes from a organic form which is both iconic and efficient while the moire effect of a fabric mesh also will encourage visual interaction. Conceived as an extension of the legacy of Frei Otto’s seminal lightweight tensioned membrane structures, it is the unique form that makes the structure both efficient and effective. The form was developed through a parallel process of both analogue and digital form-finding to explore the material behaviours of composite tensioned membrane skins (relaxed meshes) and bending active frames. In short, the carbon fibre tube ring is deformed into shape by the tailoring of skin which binds it. In response, the frame pushes out while the skin pulls in, creating a form-force equilibrium that is lightweight, cost-efficient, and easy to assemble and disassemble. The pavillion is designed so that when it is disassembled it will fit inside the V60’s trunk dimensions for easy transportation.
The issue of sustainability is addressed in the form of a power strategy which uses fabric embedded Photovoltaic panels and light collected from the sun or indoor artificial lighting to power the pavillion and charge the V60 model on show. The car will ‘plug’ directly into the pavillion’s skin, charging its battery with the energy collected over the day. The ‘Switch to Pure Volvo” pavillion becomes a symbol of the V60’s attitude to efficient energy consumption and a showcase of the Hybrid V60’s characteristics.