Volvo's newest vehicle, the wildly-popular plug-in diesel hybrid V60, is poised to make its debut on the Italian auto show circuit. In preparation, the automaker, in conjunction with international architecture magazine The Plan, launched a contest to develop a sleek, rapidly-deployable pavilion that would both showcase the car and reinforce its high-efficiency characteristics. The competition, called "Switch To Pure Volvo", saw entries from all over the world, but the winner was a solar-powered marvel called 'Pure Tension' designed by Synthesis Design + Architecture (SDA), a Los Angeles-based architecture firm led by architect and USC professor, Alvin Huang.
The basis of Pure Tension’s design is that of a tension tent: stress applied equally from all angles of a structure helps to keep the canopy taut and standing erect. SDA’s approach was to use the car’s design as the basis to reimagine the typical trade show pavilion.
The swooping, swirling, canopy is fashioned from HDPE mesh fabric–a plastic-based membrane that’s made from recycled #2 plastics like milk jugs, plastic bags and refillable plastic bottles. The fabric is then stretched over CNC-bent aluminium 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,” points out a press release.
As striking as Pure Tension looks, it’s not the floral design that makes the shelter so attractive. Integrated into the fabric membrane are photovoltaic panels, designed to gather the sun’s energy and funnel it directly into the V60’s battery. The solar panels allow the pavilion to function as a charger for the V60 on display, with the charging cable concealed within and peeling away from the tubing.
As you might imagine, the entire Pure Tension canopy is extremely lightweight and therefore easy to transport and set up. “Membrane structures present numerous challenges in converging architectural intentions with engineering first principles,” said Greg Otto, principal of Buro Happold. 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.” Buro Happold is providing SDA with structural engineering for the design.
The SDA team will also be working in collaboration with the Volvo Design Center in Camarillo, California in anticipation of a September 15th official launch date. Fabrication will be carried out by Chicago-based Fabric Images, Inc.