In developing the design concept for the pavilion we looked not only at Bulgari’s jewellery but also Bulgari’s own influences for their collections. In this way the lounge was intended to complement and reinterpret the collections rather than just emulate them. Much of Bulgari’s inspiration comes from nature, be it the geometry in plants or the fluidity and ephemerality of water.
This provided certain aesthetic and environmental inspirations however the principal inspiration was the distinctive use of cabochon cut jewels in Bulgari’s pieces. This is a process in which rough gemstones are polished to create a smooth rather than faceted finish. When combined with other polished stones the result is a fluid and organic piece of jewellery. In addition, whilst being renowned for their use of precious metals and gems, Bulgari’s jewellery has often used more unusual materials such as ceramic.
The reapproriation of something mundane and transforming it into something magnificent became the starting point for our design concept. The design of the pavilion aimed to be both reminiscent of Bulgari’s Italian heritage whilst being representative of its own fabrication and structure. In this sense a certain brutal honesty was desired it the final outcome so that the form was a self supporting entity in itself without the need for a separate internal structure; therefore the form was not merely a decorative veil. To
achieve this however required careful consideration and analysis of both material and construction technique.
After a period of extensive prototyping and experimenting a design based upon the packing of acrylic tubes was devised. Acrylic tubes are an “off-the-self” product that come in set lengths and diameters.
Although they have a diverse range of uses they are rarely used as principal architectural elements. By packing them close together not only do they begin to form mass but also provide structural rigidity. Much like the rough gemstone the concept was to slice and cut, smooth and polish the form to result in new spaces and environmental conditions, to reinvent the material as something extraordinary and unique.
Whilst attempting to create a wholly new spatial experience the team were also keen for it to simultaneously be something completely familiar, evocative of Bulgari’s heritage. In this way it was decided to form arches, arcades and cupolas through the excavation and sculpting. As well as being exposed and translucent this method provided a recognisable enclosure and intimacy all be it an ethereal sensation of it.
Having developed a design concept the idea was adapted to the site, budget and requirements of the brief. Working in close collaboration with the structural engineer a repeating pattern consisting of 4 varying tube diameters was devised to provide maximum structural integrity, reduce cost, and ease the construction process.
Continuing with the desire to create a holistic design, a bespoke connection technique was formulated using polycarbonte dowels secured with polycarbonate pins. This provide not only a quick and simple assembly method but also minimised the impact the connections had aesthetically unifying the design through a single material.
The design process was an iterative exercise moving back and forth between scripted and parametrically defined computer models and physical prototypes and tests. In this way the possibilities and limitations of this construction technique could be explored validating some concepts and dismissing others. Importantly, with the use of physical
prototypes our team were forced to confront the fabrication methodologies needed at an early stage and as such could begin to consider the best ways in which to document and communicate the design for fabrication whilst still designing.
In total the design consists of nearly 2272 tubes with 10,000 individual connections between them with a final weight of nearly 6 tonnes. Whilst the majority of this construction data was generated through scripting processes a significant amount needed to be done by hand.
In parallel a team from Artisan worked on the lighting design for the project.
The event was in both the day and night and as a translucent structure there were a number of exciting opportunities for the team to investigate for when the sun went down. During the day the pavilion plays and manipulates the changing conditions of the sunlight however at night the aim was to provide an alternative experience in which the light flowed through the structure like water constantly hiding and revealing different parts of the pavilion.
Structural Engineer: Structure Workshop
Lighting Consultant: Artisan (United Visual Artists)
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