Material Performance in the Service of Sustainability: Minafold Pavilion

Too often in the design profession, sustainability is treated like a check-list one must to go through in order to satisfy a certain quota to ‘green-wash’ a project, resulting in dull sustainability ‘solutions’ and even duller buildings and forms. But what if we could re-evaluate the way we apply technology to traditional materials, discover ways to maximize performance to achieve minimal waste, and design a new construction methodology along the way? For Greenbuild 2016, we decided to answer these questions with the Minafold Pavilion.

The Minafold Pavilion is an exploration in material performance. Can the properties of a single material be maximized to achieve minimal waste and compose a visual performance? The pavilion encompasses a 10’x10’x8’ volume while only weighing 100 pounds. This structure removes traditional columns and beams and uses double curvature to create rigidity.

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Author and designer Joseph Sarafian in front of the Minafold Pavilion.

The Pavilion uses 177 square feet of recycled sheet material (18-gauge Aluminum) and turns it into a self-supporting structural element through bending (at the macro scale) and folding (at the micro). The surface is then triangulated and perforated with a variable size aperture. The perforations transform from small holes at the base, where stiffness is required, into a lattice at the top where flexibility is needed. Each of the 192 unique panels is laser cut with holes and labels built into the algorithm.

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A brake form is used to fold the connection tabs where a rivet is driven through to join them. All aspects of the design were parametrically controlled, from the location of rivet holes to the laser-etched connection labels. The construction process was streamlined by a “paint by number” catalogue system that made it easy for someone to build without prior experience, or even an understanding of the final design intent. A 3D file and 2D drawing of each component was provided on-site to create a set of easily-understood instructions. The Pavilion made its debut at the 2016 Greenbuild Expo in Los Angeles and was warmly received by attendees, gaining its own following with the hashtag #Minafold.

Minafold Pavilion made its debut at Greenbuild 2016 in Los Angeles.

Minafold Pavilion made its debut at Greenbuild 2016 in Los Angeles.

This project comes at a critical point in time when architecture is emerging out of a drawing-based industry and utilizing design-to-fabrication workflows. Both the laser cutter and brake form were computer-controlled, removing much of the human interface that is traditionally associated with a project of this size. Not only was the 3D model necessary in communicating the design, but it was essential for calculating structural behavior, simulating the effects of gravity, and studying the material characteristics of aluminum. A much more involved synergy between architect, engineer, and fabricator was essential to the success of the pavilion, and will pave the way for future collaborations.

The strategy employed in this canopy can be easily translated into a building façade, interior partition, or stand-alone sculptural element. These interventions into the realm of architecture can positively challenge the forms we create and expand the role of architects. As most contractors are not familiar with these methods, the architect is essential in alleviating doubt and streamlining the fabrication and mock-up phases. Architects should no longer be afraid to develop their own assemblies and systems as long as they are working closely with a fabricator to alleviate the cost-overruns typical of custom work. Parametric design is known for its ability to create variation and experimental forms, but an oft-overlooked aspect is its ability to rationalize sculptural work into easily fabricated elements, even making the fabricator’s job easier by adding details like rivet holes and laser etching numbers. This aspect of parametric design will advance the profession not just in what we build, but in how we build it.

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Minafold Pavilion

Architecture: Perkins+Will
Project Designer: Joseph Sarafian
Coordination/Planning: Sandra Cervantes, Yuriva Bueno
Sustainability Coordination: Eric Brossy de Dios, Lorraine Polanski
Fabrication: Ampersand Contract Signing Group
Videography: Nathan Ingalls
Photography: Carlos De La Rosa Jr.

Build Team:
Joseph Sarafian, Hrant Varozian, Eric Brossy de Dios, Davon Johnson, Oliver Aus Der Muhlen, Anish Reddy, Justin Brechtel, Tim Pettigrew, Andrew Tsay Jacobs, Sandy Ghaly, Jorge Mutis, Aram Hernandez, Kylie Gaines, Mohsen Ghanbari, Eric Aukee, Doug Mayer, Devika Tandon, Jessica Radparvar, Abby White, Tina Giorgadz.

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