Reciprocal Frame by Nathan Melenbrink, Samo Pedersen and Shibu Raman

The project marked many students’ first experience with digital and parametric design.

NINGBO – A studio at the University of Nottingham, Ningbo Campus, has designed and built a pavilion celebrating and displaying four years of academic work. Students and faculty collaborated in weekend workshops that ultimately produced a three-part, parametrically-designed structure that the group assembled in the architecture school’s atrium. ‘As the exhibition covers four academic years of student work, the pavilion becomes more integrated and complex through the space, metaphorically following the students’ development in their studies,’ say the faculty. Their execution of a full-scale design, it seems, serves not only as a showcase for their portfolios of work, but also as the culmination of that work.

For the students in the workshop, most of whom had little experience with digital or parametric design, ‘the amount of work included in the design and development of the pavilion came as a surprise’. After introductory coursework in digital design software, weeks of trial-and-error tinkering with models and full-scale mockups gradually pointed the group toward the most appropriate materials, fabrication technologies, and assembly methods for their design. The final product is evidence of the studio’s intensive design process; it wrests fluidity and precision from a material known for neither.

Reciprocal Frame consists of 3019 flat segments of notched, eighteen-millimetre plywood. Interior lighting heightens both the contrast within the pavilion’s mesh-like surface and its reflection in the atrium’s floor. ‘The slowly shrinking radius of the pavilion plays on the conventional exhibition experience,’ say the designers. ‘Some spaces can clearly be occupied, while others seem to invite the visitor to crouch or crawl to get a closer look.’

Faculty and staff: Nathan Melenbrink, Samo Pedersen, Shibu Raman, Colin Rowe, James Mansfield

Students: Chang Chang, Chuang Chieh-Yu, Cindy Wei Ping Lai Tong, Dekai Zhang, Enran Zhang, Hangyang Zhou, Hao Chen, Haochun Zeng, He Jiang, Hewei Jiang, Jingyu Xu, Lei Wang, Lisa Heller, Peng Luo, Qi Zhao, Tianyi Wang, Titi Fang, Shangfeng Lin, Weizhe Wang, Xiaohan Yang, Xingchen Li, Ying Cui, Yiran Zhang

Photos Nathan Melenbrink, Samo Pedersen and Shibu Raman

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