A kinematic research pavilion in the light of rapid assembly and disassembly, of material use and reuse 

Activity: Talk or presentation typesConference presentation


We aim to contribute to a more sustainable built environment by investigating new structural morphologies in lightweight structures. Smart geometries, such as those generated through elastic torsion and twist by simultaneously activating and utilizing material properties, can contribute to achieve highly efficient structures and usually ensure less material and energy consumption. In the context of finding sustainable solutions, design for disassembly, reusability, leftovers, and waste are highly relevant. The realized Zero Gravity research pavilion (fig. 1), a full-scale kinematic structure, showcases these aspects but also features artistic, kinematic, and architectural qualities. This paper observes the pavilion at the crossroad of (dis-)assembly and (re-)use. We are looking into the combined structural system from individual components on one hand and looking into the question of (re-)use by investigating how efficiently the materials were used and to what extent it is possible to reuse them on the other hand.

The pavilion is composed of three main parts: (i) a moving lightweight roof, (ii) one linearly actuated and five fixed-length columns, and (iii) I-beams on a fixed base plane. By considering the overall stability, the number of used columns was kept at the minimum possible of six. The connection between the moving roof and the I-beams is provided by the pin joints screwed to both ends of the columns. Since the structure is kinematic, the pin joints allow for both kinematic motion and rapid assembly and disassembly. The whole structure is designed by following a kit-of-parts approach, in a way that they can be easily separated and reassembled in various modes. By this means, different spatial configurations and different paths of motion can be achieved easily by rearranging the columns of the pavilion.

Even though the components, namely the grid structure as core and the six cantilever, were separately prefabricated, the lightweight roof of the structure forms a continuously flowing system. Initially, planar plywood strips were subjected to (i) elastic torsion to form hollow section cantilever beams [2], (ii) elastic bending to generate the grid structure as core and at a planar state were used as top and bottom plates for stiffening the generated grid-structure. In the cantilevering parts, a low-tech, friction-based lacing technique was used to generate common seamlines along the strips’ longitudinal edges, which does not require knots and therefore provides rapid closing, re-opening, and adjusting. In the core, the plug connection was used for intersecting elastically bent strips without using any other connectors or glue.

The structure consists of the components that were produced from raw material and a large number of components that were re-used in an upcycled manner. Upcycled parts include I-beams, spherical pin joints, metal connectors, and electronic parts, all of which can be reused after the current application. Unprocessed tree trunks were utilized as columns without applying any chemicals or debarking process. Consequently, they can be considered raw materials even after being used. For the realization of the roof, we used around 100kg of raw plywood material, while 75% of it went directly into the structure, as strips, without cut-off waste. The remaining 25% of the plywood material was used to stiffen the grid structure of the roof, where 29% of it was cut off. In a nutshell, all parts of the structure were either processed as little as possible or completely unprocessed.

The Zero Gravity pavilion is presented as a showcase of responsible design of super lightweight structures through mediating geometry between the specific material properties and the specific structural needs while simultaneously increasing the functionality and spatial effects. The pavilion was disassembled and re-assembled several times in various locations with different groups of students at Aalto University with the pedagogic intent to highlight the aspects of design for (dis-)assembly and (re-)use for the future building sector, society, and environment. We analyzed and delineated how much of the materials were (re-)used to build the structure and how much of them can be reused and recycled after the final disassembly. As an outcome, 97% of the total mass (excluding I-beams) was reusable by considering the structure´s environmental footprint right from the beginning of the design process. Through the project, we also noticed the shortcomings of an assembly manual, which is key to allow for easy transfer of processes, sequences, and techniques for the reassembly and for minimizing the level of required supervision. Although the entire structure allows disassembly into planar and linear elements, which minimizes storage volume, properly storing and denominating all parts and connectors is still a challenging aspect. In our case, it was easily solved by the available lab spaces at the university but transferring this idea into real-world applications that are dealing with larger numbers of elements and bigger scale, opens new questions with respect to logistics, digitalization but also regarding architectural qualities and aesthetics.
PeriodOct 2021
Event titleAnnual Symposium of Architectural Research in Finland: Diversity
Event typeConference
Conference number13
LocationEspoo, FinlandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Structures and architecture
  • design for disassembly
  • DFD
  • elastictorsion
  • activebending
  • reuse