SYDNEY – The annual Vivid Sydney festival transforms the Australian metropolis with light, music and ideas. For three weeks in May and June, the city is a veritable playground of cutting edge music and inspirational lectures. The pinnacle of the event is a series of spectacular light installations scattered throughout the city. For this year’s edition, professor and architectural researcher at Bond University Chris Knapp, together with his colleague Jonathan Nelson and master’s degree student Michael Parsons, created a site-specific viewing pavilion.

This isn’t the first time Knapp has worked with light installations, having already collaborated on a smaller scale in 2013 for a festival in Wellington. ‘This started off our interest in designing panelised enclosure systems that deal with doubly-curved surfaces –  a fairly universal topic in the domain of digital design, but one which is seldom investigated at the level of digital fabrication strategies which attempt to integrate structure and skin into single system,’ he says.

The pavilion’s form was investigated over the course of 6 months to account for the particular form of the façade system, fabrication process and tolerances. The outer form was first divided into a hexagonal grid, which was subsequently optimised into slightly irregular Voronoi cells, the geometry of which is reflected in the supporting aluminium structure of the 380 individual modules.

‘Once we were given the final site, we then modified the project to take full advantage of the relationship. The visual dialogue and framed views we created between the pavilion, the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House were highly specific and intentional,’ Knapp explains. The pavilion’s parametric design and computational fabrication meant that any changes were easily implemented in real time.

The pavilion is now dismantled, but is set to make a reappearance during the G20 summit in Brisbane later this year. By this time, additional interactive features will be incorporated within its scaly, high-density polyethylene skin. ‘The pavilion – in concept – was designed to be interactive and respond to movement and proximity of occupants, resulting in dynamic lighting behaviour. This would be driven by small infrared sensors connected to programmable Arduino hardware to control the circuitry,’ the architect concludes.

Photos Patrick Boland