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Fabrication workshop fosters collaboration and experimentation in form-making

The Komorebi Pavilion represents a collaborative project between the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Tokyo University, and Autodesk's BUILD Space in South Boston. The project emerged from a two-day workshop held in November by structural engineer Jun Sato of Tokyo University. The workshop challenged students to design a fully transparent structure using advanced computational analysis to guide form-making. The chosen material, PETG, is a non-toxic, pliable plastic whose various structural properties were imported to HOGAN software to predict behavior and deflection. Students were tasked with imagining non-traditional forms and irregular patterning that could produce shimmering, dappled light (or komorebi) within the pavilion.

Autodesk's BUILD Space
Autodesk's Boston BUILD Space is a unique industrial workshop and innovation studio.

Over J-term, a team of eight GSD students led by Associate Professor in Practice Mark Mulligan and Teaching Fellow Ignacio Cardona (DDes) moved the site of operation to Autodesk's BUILD Space, an immense state-of-the-art fabrication facility in South Boston dedicated to advancing architectural research and knowledge through collaboration across disciplines.

Over ten days, the team fabricated and assembled nearly 800 identical snowflake-shaped PETG modules (3/32″ thick) that could be slotted, notched, and interlocked in multiple ways, allowing construction to proceed without the use of metal clips or other conventional fittings. The varying densities and curvatures of the overlapping PETG modules produced an astonishing set of spatial effects. The Komorebi Pavilion will be on display at BUILD Space through early February.

Working in teams of four, students from Mulligan's fall studio “Cases in Contemporary Construction” were given 24 hours to design a free-standing pavilion following guidelines provided by structural engineer Jun Sato.

Jun Sato Workshop
Jun Sato Workshop
Fifteen teams presented their designs to a jury at the end of the second day, and three finalist teams were chosen to further develop a single design based on ideas from their first-round schemes.

After eight weeks of development and computational analysis, the pavilion design was finalized and preparations began for fabricating and assembling it at BUILD Space in South Boston. Over J-term, students worked together with Autodesk's experts to hone the fabrication process, refine the shaping of PETG modules, and test structural assumptions. Two researchers from Tokyo University, Ying Xu and Iris Zhang, were on hand to advise during the final days of construction.

Jun Sato Structural Engineering Workshop
Two openings—one wide and shallow, another at normal door height—allow access to the interior.
Jun Sato Structural Engineering Workshop
The long arms of the module are used to create a space frame that connects the inner and outer layers, so no extra pieces are needed.
Jun Sato Structural Engineering Workshop
A water jet cutter was used to create hundreds of identical PETG modules.
Jun Sato Structural Engineering Workshop
The units were heat formed around CNC-routed positive molds in a 216-degree glass kiln to add rigidity. Once cooled, the modules were laid over the original molds to ensure that each piece is in the same curved form.
Jun Sato Structural Engineering Workshop
Individual units are linked via t-connections to form a continuous tension ring that wraps the entire structure. An undulating inside layer supports a smooth and continuous outside layer.

Jun Sato Structural Engineering Workshop

Students used advanced computational analysis to guide form-making of the pavilion.

Workshop Participants

Carly Gertler (MArch/MLA '17), Anne Schneider (MArch '18), Paul Mok (MArch '18), Danielle Kasner (MArch '18)Meric Ozgen (MArch '18), Gary Lin (MArch '18), Cari Alcombright (MArch '18), Chao Gu (MDE '18)