Unfolding, Pavilion at London Design Biennale 2021

Small Project

Location: London Design Biennale 2021

Architect: PLP Architecture

Client & engineer: CNMI at the University of Cambridge

Consultancy: Dukta Flexible Wood

Species: birch (Latvian), CLT, American tulipwood

Unfolding is conceived as a light, flexible and transformable structural exploration that investigates how engineered timber can be used to build a more sustainable urban future. The pavilion is composed of folded timber components produced using kerfing, a cutting method that allows flat rigid panels to be turned into foldable or curved elements using select scoring and cutting patterns. Two sets of folded arching elements spread out from a centralised cluster, producing a series of intimate spaces cradled below a gently undulating canopy. In the middle, a third set of elements curve towards one another as a gestural response to the void created by the others. Together, the elements create a grove that can transform to illustrate various spatial possibilities and adapt to use and individual preference. The design team performed extensive research into the fabrication process, considering the topology and geometry of kerf patterns, equipment uses and types of wooden panels. The project is a bold first step in the development of a unique fabrication system with significant wider implications, whereby a prefabricated, flat-packed, and easily transportable component can be used to create useful, sustainable, and beautiful structures anywhere in the world with minimal on-site expertise required. It is hoped that the construction industry can leave behind an era of extracting building materials and move towards a future of cultivating them, embracing the present as an opportunity to grow our forests, to grow our building materials and to grow our cities sustainably.