ETH / AA Emtech Pavilion
ETH Zurich Campus
Zurich, Switzerland

Out of a collaboration between the Emergent Technologies and Design program (EmTech) of the Architectural Association, London, and the Chair of Structural Design at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich, a temporary light timber construction has been design that functions as sun shading for parts of the grand stairs in front of the architecture department of the ETH. It is based on bending behaviour under selfweight of oversized sheets of plywood of 11m x 2.5 m. The design activates the material properties as the defining element in the transfer of forces. The exploration of the sheet material and the manipulation of its bending properties by controlling the number of layers of ply and the fibre direction of these layers was the starting point of the design process. The precise geometry of the bending curve emerged out of the distribution of matter, the hierarchy within plywood as composite material and given load conditions.
Based on a systematic investigation into the defining parameters, sheets of 18 mm thickness with fibres mainly in longitudinal direction have been used for the pavilion. Cuts within the sheets influence the bending resistance of the sheets, enable a larger spatial enclosure and reduced wind load acting upon the structure, and additionally produces a shadow pattern on the stairs that are used as seating area during summer time. Varying the length of the sheets generates small variations of the bending curve that have been utilized for the overlapping and interlocking of adjacent elements resulting in a system of self-stabilizing vaults. The vaults are cross-braced by a sequence of cables. These cables distribute all other load conditions evenly within the edge strips, and so reduce additional deformation of the arched form to a minimum.

(Project Management, Design Development)