The tessellated pavilion
Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and Australian artist Geoff Nees teamed up to design the Botanical Pavilion – a wooden pavilion that is constructed like a 3D puzzle – without using any kind of glue or screws.
DIY enthusiasts would be unlikely to opt for this kind of pergola. After all, it has no need for the tools used in homes and gardens with such satisfaction, such as cordless screwdrivers and Allen keys. There is no hammering, no drilling and no clamping. If the Botanical Pavilion were on sale at your local garden centre, it would come in a set with identical pieces of wood and an illustrated construction booklet. Instead of being skilled at DIY, for this project you would just need to love doing jigsaw puzzles.
A spatial experience for art
This cylindrical timber pavilion was designed by one of Japan’s most eminent contemporary architects, Kengo Kuma, together with Australian artist Geoff Nees for the 2020 NGV Triennial, the art and architecture festival at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. The installation aimed to create a connection with the painting by Korean artist Lee Ufan. In the exhibition, the round opening on both sides of the pavilion created a frame and a sensorial spatial experience for the artwork.
I often receive inspiration from Japanese craftsmanship with its respect for material, where materials and details go together.
Kengo Kuma, architect
“The semi-circular shape of the pavilion invites the visitor into a journey to explore the space and experience the various essences of wood,” explains Kengo Kuma. The Botanical Pavilion took its name from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne, where Kuma and Nees collected the timber from fallen branches and trees over many years. This “beautiful but unused wood” was given new life in the pavilion.
Connected to nature
Kuma’s approach to design is rooted in the traditions of Japanese carpentry, where individual pieces are interlocked and held together by tension and gravity alone. “I often receive inspiration from Japanese craftsmanship with its respect for material, where materials and details go together,” says Kuma. The pavilion’s tessellated structural shell displays colour coding on the inside, which results simply from the different types of wood. “This gives the visitor a different perception of light and colour at every section of the pavilion.”
I think my architecture is some kind of frame for nature.
Kengo Kuma, architect
In his reinterpretations of Japanese traditions, Kuma believes that this manner of construction – by joining smaller pieces to form a large whole – often automatically produces an organic form. “Since the pavilions I make are made of natural materials such as wood, I think organic and curved shapes help to better connect and blend the architecture in the natural world.”
Subtle concept design
Kengo Kuma is regarded as an icon in the world of architecture. In his sensitive conceptions, he creates a careful balance between tradition and present-day. For instance, for the Museum von Hans Christian Andersen in Denmark’s Odense Kuma has staged an artistic experience that adds an architectural dimension to the literary world of this famous storyteller.
This subtlety runs like a golden thread through Kuma’s work. In his architectural office Kengo Kuma Associates he has created numerous international projects. These frequently display references to historical Japanese architecture and place traditional elements in a 21th-century context. Describing the architect, the National Gallery of Victoria writes: “His design approach elevates the role and meaning of natural light and materials in contemporary architecture.”
Kuma himself describes his approach to architecture as follows: “I think my architecture is some kind of frame for nature. With it we can experience nature more deeply and more intimately.”
Text: Gertraud Gerst
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Photos: Tom Ross, Kengo Kuma, Geoff Nees
that might interest you
Self-sufficiency is no longer a dream reserved for downshifters. The modular building system named The Farmhouse designed by Studio Precht allows residents to grow food in big cities.
Homerton College at the University of Cambridge has chosen the design by Alison Brooks Architects for a pavilion that combines modern timber construction with high-tech facilities. It is expected to be a future-facing answer to their needs.
The Swedish university city of Växjö has been named “the Greenest City in Europe”. Half of all its new buildings have been built with timber. But the city plans to go even further.
The Scandinavians have shown their pioneering strength once again, this time in the design for a new cultural centre. The Sara Kulturhus in Sweden’s Skellefteå is among the world’s tallest high-rise structures built entirely from wood.
When it comes to timber construction engineering, the United States has been lagging behind other countries. Ascent Tower in Milwaukee aims to change this. Topping out as the world’s tallest timber tower at a height of 284 feet, the building uses expertise and structural elements from Austria.
As many as 40,000 pieces of wood had to be fitted together for the gift shop in the National Museum of Qatar. The inspiration behind this award-winning interior design was supplied by a miracle of nature in Qatar’s desert.
Canada’s Earth Tower aims to outshine all existing timber high-rise buildings. Its energy concept means that this 40-storey skyscraper in Vancouver will be the world’s tallest passive house.
On the edge of the tropical rainforest in Mexico, a research museum will explore how nature and progress can be reconciled. Known as Xinatli, its sophisticated design takes a fresh look at circular building materials.
The eco-friendly residential project Roots will be the new landmark of Hamburg’s HafenCity and the tallest timber high-rise in Germany. Architect Jan Störmer reveals what its future residents will have in common.
The Danish office 3XN is planning to build North America’s tallest timber office building in Toronto. Called T3 Bayside, the complex will offer more than 500,000 sq. ft. of next-generation office space when completed.
Oslo was once built entirely of wood. The project chosen to redesign the area around its railway station heralds the return of this traditional building material to the Scandinavian metropolis. A spectacular office tower with an innovative hub is being developed, named Fjordporten.
Dutch architectural firm Gaaga has designed a residential building in Eindhoven that is distinctly people- and environment-friendly. Surrounded by trees, it is situated in the middle of a park.
The redevelopment of an above-ground Nazi-era bunker is Hamburg’s largest building project since the Elbe Philharmonic Concert Hall. With spectacular rooftop gardens and nhow Hamburg design hotel, this new landmark in the heart of the St. Pauli district is sure to become a magnet for visitors.
The round construction known as TECLA has created quite a stir. Having teamed up as 3D printing pioneers, WASP and Mario Cucinella Architects have produced the first CO₂-free housing prototype printed entirely from raw earth.
Japanese architectural firm UENOA has created a wooden office that has no need for bearing walls. Folded origami-style, the ceiling construction gives a whole new lightness to cross-laminated timber.
Sustainability is a top priority for the Powerhouse Company. In an interview, partner Stefan Prins explains why this means more than just a careful choice of materials and energy efficiency, and how essential it is to consider all the changes brought about by climate change when building.
The Life Cycle Tower One was the first timber high-rise in Austria and the prototype for a new type of serial construction. CREE founder Hubert Rhomberg explains the green building concept and why we have to learn to think in lifecycles.
Researchers at Cambridge University are helping to turn London’s spectacular vision of a wooden skyscraper into reality. The Oakwood Timber Tower is to rise 300 metres into the sky, almost level with the tallest building in the city.
Most people looking for a new home with a sustainable design need to have deep pockets. Rotterdam’s Pendrecht district aims to buck this trend courtesy of timber building Valckensteyn, the brainchild of the architects at Powerhouse Company.
In Düsseldorf, The Cradle is gradually taking shape. The timber hybrid office building is being constructed according to circular economy principles, and these will also govern its future use.
The Dutch city of Eindhoven will soon be home to the world’s highest “plyscraper”. The two towers – 100 and 130 metres high and known as the Dutch Mountains – are to set new standards in high-rise timber construction.
An entire residential complex in Berlin-Kreuzberg is to be built out of timber – vertically. With a planned height of almost 100 metres, WoHo is set to be Germany’s tallest timber building.
A mixed-use project in Sweden’s Gothenburg is being crowned by star architect Dorte Mandrup. The jewel in this crown is its use of timber. The new eco construction is intended to become an icon in sustainable urban architecture.
Designed by US architect David Rockwell, built according to WELL Building Standard principles. The Sage Collection by British furniture maker Benchmark is good for humans and the environment.
Swiss urban planning combines prominent architecture with ecological timber construction. Lausanne’s Tilia Tower is setting a high standard in future-proof urban development.
Munich’s Prinz-Eugen-Park is the site of the largest integrated timber settlement in Germany. And that’s not all – the city planners have even more in the pipeline.
Once Europe’s largest freight station, Brussels’ monumental Gare Maritime is now the largest European CLT project. Neutelings Riedijk Architects have transformed the historic structure into a covered district, giving it a sustainable new lease of life using cross-laminated timber.
The plans just unveiled for the new, 180-metre-high timber tower designed for the Sydney-based software giant Atlassian represent a milestone in environmentally friendly construction using this renewable raw material.