With a timescale of six months the pavilion is, each year, transformed from a high-art design concept into London's cultural hotspot, and is one of the top 10 most-visited architectural and design exhibitions in the world. AECOM, which presented about the project at AU London, has provided engineering and technical design services since 2013
Civil

Introduction


With a timescale of just 24 weeks the Serpentine Pavilion is, each year, transformed from a high-art design concept into London’s cultural hotspot, and is one of the top 10 most-visited architectural and design exhibitions in the world.

Each year, the Serpentine Galleries commissions an international architect to design a temporary pavilion for the gallery grounds.

The pavilion hosts a range of events throughout the summer, including a cafe and free family activities during the day and a space for the Serpentine’s acclaimed Park Nights programme of performative works by artists, writers and musicians by night.

AECOM has provided engineering and technical design services for the annual Serpentine Pavilion, alongside technical adviser David Glover and creative construction company Stage One, since 2013.

Serpentine Pavilion 2019. Junya Ishigami + Associates.

For this year’s project, Japanese architect Junya Ishigami’s pavilion took its inspiration from roofs. The complexity and detail in Ishigami’s design would typically take around five years to build.

But with the project’s six-month design and construction programme and the evolving architectural form, AECOM used a range of digital tools to produce working solutions for Ishigami.

In 2018, Frida Escobedo’s Pavilion took the form of an enclosed courtyard formed of celosias — traditional breeze walls common to Mexican architecture.

Virtual prototyping enabled the whole team to experiment around the architect’s vision with different tile spacing, canopy sizes and lighting schemes, using a combination of virtual reality, augmented reality, renders and fly-through videos alongside physical materials.

Accelerating the design process through the use of VR tools allowed us to develop full-scale mock-ups with the contractor to finalise each visible detail of the highly experimental wall structures.

The walls’ modular design enabled off-site fabrication, essential to delivering the pavilion within the seven-week build period and on such a highly constrained site in the Royal Parks.

The tight timescale for erecting the Serpentine Pavilion always makes the project a particularly rewarding scheme to deliver, said AECOM, which presented at AU London in June 2019. (Autodesk University is also an online learning destination focused on the future of design and engineering. More information is available here.) From the first spade hitting the ground to completion, the Serpentine Pavilion is typically built and delivered in about six weeks.

The technical advisory team plays an important role in the creative process, working closely with the architects to transform their designs into functional and buildable spaces without losing sight of their original vision.

As the project engineers in 2019 and 2018, AECOM’s role was to seamlessly incorporate the technical solutions that would transform Frida Escobedo’s architectural concept into a built reality for the public to explore and enjoy throughout the summer months.

In 2017, the engineering company delivered structural, civil, fire and electrical engineering services for the pavilion, as well as planning and regulatory support for the architect Diébédo Francis Kéré from Burkina Faso.

In 2016, for the first time, the Serpentine Galleries expanded its annual architectural programme to include four Summer Houses and, in 2015, AECOM provided engineering and technical advisory services for Selgascano’s colourful, translucent, chrysalis-like structure.

In 2014 the company helped design and deliver Smiljan Radić’s toroidal shell structure and in 2013 it provided engineering and technical design services for Sou Fujimoto’s cloud-like pavilion.

2019: Blend of nature and architecture


The design for the 2019 Serpentine Pavilion, by Japanese architect Junya Ishigami, takes inspiration from roofs, the most common architectural feature used around the world.

‘A stone creates a landscape, and a landscape usually sits outside of a building. I wanted to create the landscape inside the building, as a theory of the landscape that the stone creates outside. In that sense, I tried to create this landscape that exists outside, inside the building itself.’ Junya Ishigami

A carpet of rock


Creating a carpet of rock erupting from and merging closely with the surrounding landscape has been Junya Ishigami’s over-arching vision for his Serpentine Pavilion.

Serpentine Pavilion 2019, virtual reality design render, exterior view.

As technical advisers, AECOM’s role was to bridge the gap between the client and architect, contributing a range of expertise to develop the design that celebrates the conceptual vision whilst at all times maintaining the balance between a strict technical brief and evolving architectural intent.

The architect has described taking his inspiration for the pavilion from the traditional stone roof – a dominant feature of Japanese architecture.

Ishigami created a free-form organically shaped expanse of Cumbrian slate, lifted from the ground on a ‘forest’ of slender steel columns seeming to push the ‘rock carpet’ skyward.

To achieve Ishigami’s vision of an ‘unstable’ structure holding up the heavy layers of metamorphic rock as though it was weightless, the size and profile of the structural steel frame was rationalised to the extent that it is nearly six times lighter than the 60-tonne slate it supports.

Using ‘hands-on’ digital design


To keep up with the six-month design and construction programme in parallel to the evolving architectural form, AECOM used its full suite of digital design tools to enhance the ‘hands-on’ approach to the design.

Serpentine Pavilion 2019, design render, interior view. Junya Ishigami + Associates.

The digital solutions allowed the architect to accurately build physical scale models in his workshop in Japan and explore further iterations to the overall design.

This process was supported throughout by the contractor, Stage One, undertaking the build of sample sections of the roof using the expertise of a highly skilled team of traditionally trained stonemasons.

This enabled the team to quickly resolve the remaining design and buildability issues that could not be easily achieved digitally.

The organic shape of the pavilion was in itself a technically challenging proposition. A number of constraints, including the architectural vision, client brief, material availability, procurement and build time had to be considered with each design iteration.

A simple system of column and ties was devised to best balance these constraints and project requirements.

Engineering the roof


The steel ties that connect the column heads together act predominantly in tension, tying the pavilion down to anchor points in each of the three corners, with bracing elements creating a stiffening ‘hem’ around the pavilion perimeter.

The stone is supported by a steel mesh that spans between the ties, forming a basket. The relationship between the ties and the mesh was carefully tuned to ensure that their strain and deformation is visible in the finished work, emphasising the heavy mass of the stone juxtaposed with the very slender columns, while also ensuring that it would function as a traditional tiled roof would; providing shelter and protection from the elements.

To create a seamless connection with the concrete floor, the columns are rooted to the slab without the use of a traditional baseplate. Instead, the columns feature an internal dowel fixed to the slab, spreading the loads from the stone roof across the gallery’s lawn.

The combination of complex structural engineering analysis, a completely free-form geometry, digitally fabricated steelwork and traditional hand-laid stone meant that some design details could only be confirmed after the build commenced – placing even more pressure on the delivery programme.

Despite this and the logistical challenges of working with an architect on the other side of the world, the team worked tirelessly to produce a dramatic and unique design.

2018: Success through collaboration


The blending of Mexico’s domestic architecture with British materials and history was Frida Escobedo’s intent for the 2018 Serpentine Pavilion.

As the project engineers, AECOM’s role was to seamlessly incorporate the technical solutions that would transform Escobedo’s architectural concept into a built reality for the public to explore and enjoy throughout the summer months.

 

“The timescale of just 24 weeks from inception to completion leads to a spontaneity in the design; a fusion of art, architecture and engineering that is only achieved through the commitment and dedication of the whole team,” the firm said.

A pavilion of contradictions


Frida Escobedo’s Summer Pavilion, the Serpentine Gallery’s 18th, takes the form of an enclosed courtyard formed of celosias — traditional breeze walls common to Mexican architecture.

In plan, its outer walls align with the Serpentine Gallery, while its internal axis aligns with the Prime Meridian, which was established in 1851 in Greenwich.

The celosias are formed of a lattice of concrete roof tiles allowing views out into the park, transforming the courtyard space into a vibrant blur of greens and blues, but also providing protection and seclusion in a calm, contemplative space.

The structure’s exposed concrete and steel materials combine rough, absorbent, smooth and reflective textures. The polished stainless steel canopy soffit is mirrored by a reflective pool in the pavilion floor to create a dynamic play of light and shadow.

The language of materials


Constructed from a strong, simple palette of materials, the exposed concrete and steel structure acts as a timepiece; physically through the weathered materials and metaphorically in its orientation to the Prime Meridian.

Using such simple exposed and tactile materials required significant attention to detail, with the lighting, electrics and water services to be carefully concealed within the structure.

The concrete tiles — bespoke to the pavilion — drove the early design process: the length of the manufacturing process required all key design principles to be agreed within the first two weeks of the 24-week programme.

The tiles were fired with bespoke holes formed in the moulds, and were then stacked on steel rods and spacers to create the perforate walls.

This created a strong language from the outset, using only two types of tile to suit the corner and straight wall configurations. All other details had to evolve within those constraints requiring significant commitment from the team.

Embedding craft and digital technology


Virtual prototypes enabled the whole team to experiment with different tile spacing, canopy sizes and lighting schemes, using a combination of virtual reality, augmented reality, still renders and fly-through videos alongside the physical materials.

This allowed early, informed decision making, testing the architect’s vision before any physical building work commenced.

Full-scale mock-ups developed with the contractor, Stage One Creative Services, finalised each visible detail and allowed the highly experimental wall structures to be load tested.

The walls’ modular design enabled off-site fabrication, essential to delivering the pavilion within the seven-week build period and on such a highly constrained site in the Royal Parks.

Enhancing the elements


The pavilion is a sensory and explorative space, harnessing a subtle interplay of light, water and air through the use of everyday materials.

The base has been cast into the earth using a bespoke concrete mix to match the colour of the celosias.

Rainwater is carefully guided inside and collected in sustainable below-ground storage re-used from the 2017 pavilion to prevent flooding of the surrounding park, while the pool fills and drains through channels cast into the floor, the movement of water completely hidden from view.

At night, lighting integrated within a shroud at the top of each wall and canopy spotlights combine to create a wash of light, emphasising the tile edges and the courtyard’s form.

http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/a-SP5-1024x460.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/a-SP5-300x300.jpgDavid O'RiordanCivilAECOM,construction,design
Introduction With a timescale of just 24 weeks the Serpentine Pavilion is, each year, transformed from a high-art design concept into London's cultural hotspot, and is one of the top 10 most-visited architectural and design exhibitions in the world. Each year, the Serpentine Galleries commissions an international architect to design a...