In late 2011 the Timber Research and Development Association (TRADA) commissioned Ramboll Computational Design to design, analyse, fabricate and construct a pavilion to be a showcase for inventive use of timber and a working trade fair stand for the Timber EXPO 2012. A reusable thin-shell structure optimised for the often conflicting drivers of structural efficiency, cost of fabrication and ease of erection was created.
A single design team rarely have the opportunity to manage and take responsibility for a project from concept to construction so it was seen as an opportunity to apply and demonstrate the advantages of digital design tools as well as giving reign to our creative skills.
The underlying shape of the structure was designed using an in-house form-finding application to develop structures optimised to resist their self-weight efficiently via in-plane forces. The complex surface created by the software would have been difficult and expensive to replicate exactly so it was “discretised” into planar faces using our bespoke software, to create the 3-valent mesh that used fewer connections than the conventional triangulation of a surface.
The structure used simple hinges to connect adjacent panels. The geometry of the overall form restrains the panels – which allowed the same connection detail to be used throughout the pavilion - drastically reducing costs and manufacturing complexity. The development of the connection detail and production of a parametric model to automate the detailing, positioning of hinges, numbering and nesting was an essential part of the design development of the shell.