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A poplar plywood company financed WoodLab for designing a pavilion to exhibit and promote their architectural, sculptural and furniture products. It was a heavy creative exercise to come up with a unique but sensible design idea. Finally, an interesting design concept came to mind and took shape as ‘why don’t an architectural piece can be a manifestation of a story of poplar tree itself’? Poplar grows from its seed, and then gradually it becomes young plant and finally turns into a perennial woody tree.  Poplar trees altogether live in a family making a forest, and finally they are used for making plywood needed for building construction, furniture, and so on. This whole story had to be turned into a shape, a design, a pavilion.

The challenge of composing this story was done by using two different mathematical design vocabularies –  ‘Algorithms’ and ‘Fractals’. Algorithms helped us to represent the ‘growth’, whereas  fractals helped us to represent the ‘nature’, the forest by tree branches.

The representation of seed was a small ply panel. Then the panel started growing by increasing its size, then it was budding with two new small branches, it kept on growing and then started taking shape of a tree with the increasing of more branches. Functionally, the seeds were designed for sitting benches, whereas the networks of branches provide the feeling of shelter under the shadow in a poplar forest. Poplar fruited us with furniture and it was represented by benches.  Curvilinear shapes on plan represented the sense of nature.

Fractal Forest (Monalisa Pavilion)

MadeExpo2012-2013, Milan

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To realize the concept into design form, we used computational and parametric techniques in computer by using ‘rhinoceros’ with the help of ‘grasshopper’ and ‘python’. In ‘python’ we scripted the shape of trees with growing branches. Then ‘grasshopper’ was used for making algorithmic benches and arrangement of trees.

However, after the exhausting creative and designing phases, the next main challenge was how to construct the pavilion by showing the versatility of poplar ply. For this, a structural analysis program ANSYS was used for assessing its stress and bending strength behaviors.

We started making small scale model to show the freeform character of poplar ply. We made the model in FabLab by using CNC cutter. After that, we made a real scale prototype of one tree module to test its bending strength including other structural potency.

In October 2012, finally the pavilion was installed in prestigious international ‘MadeExpo’ Exhibition in Milan, Italy. An awesome outcome was ready, and our hardworking were ended by attracting and fascinating a large crowd of visitors !!

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