HARVEST HALL – A Portable Folded-Plate Pavilion for Perfomances

This site is located in the heart of SE Portland. Within the vibrant Sunnyside neighborhood, Portland Nursery reside just at the western base of Mt. Tabor. Around October, the winds from the Columbia River basin can pick up while the Portland rain returns. It is very likely that this event will have inclement weather but often the event is held on a sunny weekend. Much of the site faces South where the plants thrive and people can enjoy the autumn sun. Glencoe Elementary is the neighbor to the south where children can often be heard. During the event, there is a lot of foot traffic in the eastern and northern half of the site. Both green houses on the eastern border hold many activities. The northern E-W path receives most traffic around the apple bin tent where guests flock to purchase many different apples.

Our team found that placing the performance space in the central area of the site near the northern E-W path and facing east, would acoustically engage the whole site. This centrality would also maximize the structure’s visibility, reinforcing the conceptual intention and therefore the event’s identity of fall-time celebration.

The trajectory of our design development originated with the structural expression of a leaf. Specifically one associated with the colors of fall: the Maple leaf. Like a dried and curled artifact, our envisioned canopy would wrap around the performers and drape over the stage. Using a grid of secondary members, our team aimed to convey a unique cellular structure capable of resisting lateral loads. In response to such a wide reaching canopy, we employed large, cantilevering members to provide primary support and span.

The diagrid proved to be too extreme in the non-uniformity of member sizes to justify a simple fabrication and sensible on-site construction. While we also found the thicker columnar members too separated from the original architectural intent, we still needed a form that structurally worked. With this in mind, we shifted to a more simple and modular geometry derived from origami pattern-making. In this context, our pavilion positioned framing members where a mountain or valley fold would occur. The gridded framing system may have satisfied supporting and spanning needs but fell short in the bracing aspect. We decided to abandon the current structural system for a new one.

Ironically, the effectiveness of structural rigidity created with folding the planar element of paper impacted this large design decision in our project. Rather than relying on mass-timber for it’s framing potential, we employed mass-timber for its rigid plated potential. Instead of constructing a pavilion guided by the venal organization of a leaf, this project shifted focus to the cellular organization.

Once the folded plate concept was explored and a design reached, our team refined the project to address the structural implications and maintain the intended architectonics. To resolve the massive moment force created by the heavy weight of cantilevering MPP, we removed much of the interior mass of the overhead plates. This decsion to cut out skylights both resolved the deadloading and produced a delightful interaction of shadows on the stage and a framed pattern of the sky seen from below.

Architectural Drawings

CONSTRUCTION: Connections, Materiality and Constructability

Two major case studies that influenced the decisions of this project also engaged with a folded plate system.

The first, a timber pavilion built next to the Vidy-Lausanne Theatre in Switzerland, studied various ways wood-working connections could be used. The initial prototype used a CNC router capable of making 5-axis cuts in CLT panels for dovetail joinery. This resulted in many different triangular parts and could lead to confusing on-site assembly. The finalized construction system changed to a double-layered interlocking plates. This reduced the number of different panels and created a more reliable construction system. The hollow gap between the two panels also offered this project the opportunity for insulation. While our group very much admired the clean corners and distinct faceting of the panels, neither connections fit our design criteria. Dovetail joinery may work for an arched geometry but not for our cantilever. The double-layered plates had potential, but the thickness of the overall structure was undesired and the thermal aspect unnecessary.

The second study was a smaller pavilion at the Plaza Escuelas Trevijano in Spain. This structure also engaged in the natural rigidity of the folded origami form but used hinges as the connections. This had brilliant design implications when light could shine through and the space-saving aspect of their foldability. Unfortunately, the clean corners were lost, the gaps would cause leakage during rain, and the strength of the hinges with our thicker, cantilevering plates was questioned. One aspect of the hinges was the inset plates of the hinge.

This inspired us to compose a connection with knife plates that could slip into the pre-fabricated gaps of another module.

Seating Made from Cut-Outs

In order to reduce waste and maintain an identifiable language about the performance space, these folding chairs were devised for quick assembly and give the audience a comfortable place to sit.

Structural Analysis

Reflections

This project afforded our group a wide range of experiences and opportunities that pushed us all to become better architects and architectural engineers. The coordination of group design is never an easy process, but quite rewarding when pulled together.

The HARVEST HALL was an exploration of how mass timber can be manipulated for expressive designs that structurally make sense and architecturally provide a unique portable performance space. As this project reached advanced levels of refinement, it engaged our way of approaching design differently. The power of physical model making illustrated how the form and geometry of our designs need to stay rooted in reality, although profoundly supported digitally. In addition, the structural analysis of dead and wind loading highlighted the need for an effectively realized connection system. The smooth and hidden connection system is an aspect of our project’s architectonics that provided a thoroughly engaging conversation with classmates, professors and professionals in regards to such a resolution.

Some questions we left with are: How can the design process incorporate structural and material optimization early on so that off-cut waste is reduced and fabrication simplified? How could a nomadic structure be designed with an end-of-life aspect that considers a more permanent home or re-usability?

Overall, our team finds that this project turned out to be successful in the explorations embarked. The fruits of our labor ripened well for the final review and we can’t help but to wonder if the fruit would be even sweeter with more time to develop.

Acknowledgements

Our team would like to thank our professors Nancy Cheng and Mariapaola Riggio for their expertise, guidance, and support during this term.  We would also like to thank our Graduate Teaching Fellows, Sujit Bhandari and Isaac Martinotti.  We recognize that without these people and the facilities offered at UO and OSU, this incredible learning experience would not be possible.  In addition, we would like to thank the guest reviewers and guest lecturers throughout the term as it is their outside and professional input that helps us refine and develop a stronger grasp of architecture and visual presentation.  Thank you all!

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