Architects: Nex Architecture
Location: Westminster, London, UK
Architects: Nex Architecture / Alan Dempsey, Paul Loh, Michal Piasecki, Tomasz Starczewski, James Chung
Collaborators: Marcus Barnett Landscape Design, Buro Happold Engineering
Client: The London Times, Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Courtesy of nex architecture
From the architect. NEX was delighted to contribute to creating a benchmark in integrated design at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, working with Buro Happold and Chelsea Gold Medallist Marcus Barnett on the creation of a pavilion for The Times Eureka Garden, in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
The Times commissioned Marcus Barnett Landscape Architects to design and build the garden, demonstrating a commitment to science and reflecting the focus of The Times monthly science magazine, Eureka. Barnett asked award winning NEX Architecture to design the Eureka Pavilion, and appointed Buro Happold to provide structural engineering. Plant species chosen for the Eureka Garden reflect their benefits to society including medicinal, commercial and industrial uses underlining the fact we could not survive without them. The pavilion design brief was to reflect the same theme.
NEX Principal Alan Dempsey says: “We extended the design concepts of the garden by looking closely at the cellular structure of plants and their processes of growth to inform the design’s development. The final structure was designed using computer algorithms that mimic natural growth and is intended to allow visitors to experience the patterns of biological structure at an unfamiliar scale. The primary structure is timber sourced from sustainable spruce forests with a glass panelled roof.”
The design development of the pavilion focused on the ‘bio-mimicry’ of leaf capillaries being embedded in the walls. The structural geometry was finalised to use primary timber capillaries (300dp x 140wd) to form the basic shape and supporting structure of the pavilion, inset with secondary timber cassettes that hold the cladding. Following completion of the 3D modelling to meet architectural and structural needs, specialist timber fabricators undertook detailed analysis and digital manufacturing of the structure.
The walls and roof are clad with recycled plastic ‘cells’ that frame views out to the garden. Rain water literally runs down the capillaries in the walls of the cube from the roof into the ground. The pavilion sits on a timber raft constructed from spruce beams. Sand ballast fills the voids between the raft timbers to give the pavilion increased weight to resist uplift from wind loads.
Nothing will remain in the ground after the structure is dismantled and transported to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew where it will be erected along with the rest of the Times Eureka Garden, against the backdrop of Kew’s historical UNESCO World Heritage Site landscape. It is hoped the garden will be open to the public in early July for the summer months.