Synthesis Design + Architecture Wins Competition to Design Pavilion for Volvo

© Synthesis Design + Architecture

Synthesis Design + Architecture (SDA), the forward-thinking Los Angeles-based architecture firm led by architect and USC professor, Alvin Huang, has recently won an international competition to design a rapidly deployable pavilion to showcase and charge ’s new plug-in electric hybrid, the V60. 

Volvo’s “Switch to Pure Volvo” competition, organized by international architecture magazine THE PLAN, called for an innovative and original design for a temporary pavilion that expressed a “strong and creative identity” to showcase the car at fairs and open air presentations in Italian squares. SDA’s approach was to use the car’s design as a flexible and sustainable vehicle as the basis to reimagine the typical trade show pavilion. 

Charging Diagram

SDA emphasized the qualities of dynamic form, interactivity, visual impact, functionality, and efficiency to create a novel temporary structure that, while iconic, also offers high-performance. The design integrates structure, form, and performance by utilizing a continuous organic form composed of HDPE mesh fabric with integrated photovoltaic panels tensioned over carbon fiber rods. In fact, the digitally designed contours of the mesh fabric are what bend the rods into their curvy forms. The result calls to mind the image of an elegantly diaphanous orchid. 

The jury felt SDA’s solution was the strongest and most original out of over 150 submissions from around the world. From jury statements, the pavilion embodied “visual impact”, “high quality”, and “the advancement of technology through form, materials, and functionality.” They appreciated that the pavilion also functioned as a “photovoltaic shelter”. 

Assembly Diagram

“This competition presented us with a unique challenge as architects,” says SDA principal and founder, Alvin Huang. “It addressed issues we are constantly working on and offered the potential to address as something much broader that can also encompass issues of identity, contemporary culture, materiality, permanence, and personal mobility.” 

Front Elevation

The pavilion itself is highly mobile. In SDA’s proposal, it is shown arriving on site in the back of a V60, completely collapsed into a small tent bag. “It was important that it be easy deploy, break down, and move around,” says Huang. What is truly remarkable about the design is that once assembled it looks like one continuous smooth surface without the usual expression of components. 

Components Diagram

For SDA it was important that the design be imbued with the same vision of energy efficiency and sustainability as the V60. With its embedded photovoltaics the pavilion functions as “charger” for the V60 on display, with the charging cable concealed within and peeling away from the tubing.

The use of light weight high-tech materials and photovoltaic power generation makes the pavilion extremely cost-effective for fabrication, transportation, and set up. This is another factor that went into the jury’s decision. It does not require a large crew or the use of a truck or other additional equipment for installation.

Side Elevation

In the broader sense, the pavilion expresses SDA’s on-going exploration of integrating performance with dynamic forms and pushing the boundaries of materials and geometries to create compelling and moving spatial experiences.

Engineering firm Buro Happold is providing structural engineering. As Greg Otto, principal of Buro Happold Los Angeles says, “Membrane structures present numerous challenges in converging architectural intentions with engineering first principles. Our engineering team will refine the geometries prepared by SDA using proprietary software based upon dynamic relaxation to optimize the form, design the structural boundary conditions, and ultimately pattern the fabric.”

© Synthesis Design + Architecture

Architects: Synthesis Design + Architecture (SDA)
Design Team: Alvin Huang, Filipa Valente, Chia-ching Yang, Behnaz Farahi, Yueming Zhou, Joseph Sarafian 
Structural Engineering: Buro Happold Los Angeles (Greg Otto, Stephen Lewis, Ron Elad) 
Client: Volvo Italy 
Developed by: Fabric Images (Chicago)
Competition Organizer: The Plan Magazine (Italy) 
Opening date: September 15, 2013 
Program: Rapidly depoloyable pavilion to showcase the Volvo V60 
Area: 36 sqm 
Materials: HDPE Mesh, Photovoltaic panels, Carbon-fiber

Cite: AD Editorial Team. "Synthesis Design + Architecture Wins Competition to Design Pavilion for Volvo" 16 Jul 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 19 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=402963>

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