Senior Texas A&M environmental design students recently designed and built working small-scale prototypes for lightweight collapsible pavilions that could be deployed at full scale to shade up to 400 square feet. Conceived to replace giant tents, the portable, transformable structures expand to form artistic, architecturally intriguing canopies that allude to the complex mathematical calculations required to make them work.
“This topic was completely new to them,” said studio director Negar Kalantar, an assistant professor of architecture who’s assignment was meant to unleash her students’ imagination while also testing their mettle. “They didn’t have any precedent to look at and I wanted them to learn how to deal with a design question that hasn’t been asked before.”
One of the studio’s best solutions, Kalantar said, was “Leveling Up,” the team creation of Scout Wingate of Houston, Jamie Madison of Groesbeck, Jairo Cordova of Pasadena and Taylor Dollahite of Hamilton, Texas.
They designed a C-shaped, open-top structure with five layers of vertically and horizontally interconnected scissor-shaped framework. Sections of the pavilion are fitted with angled fabric awnings to channel water down the structure and provide a shaded unobstructed view outside. The top center of the structure is uncovered, creating a space reminiscent of the Roman Colosseum, Cordova said. The entire structure collapses down into a rectangular box for storage and is deployable by three-to-five people.
“We wanted to make something different and interesting,” said Madison. “This changes the landscape. It impresses, draws you in.”
Incorporating the cloth awnings proved to be one of the most difficult and effective elements of the Leveling Up pavilion design, said Dollahite.
“Once the structure is deployed, there isn’t any extra cloth hanging off. There’s no extra piece to install,” said Dollahite. “In fact, the whole structure has no pins or places to connect that could break or not align. It’s structurally sound, freestanding as it expands.”
Another team created a circular bloom-inspired structure with a center supported conical spread casting shade all around.
“It’s a landmark, a functional art installation,” co-designer Katelyn Markham of Texarkana said. “You could put a ticket booth inside it, everyone would be drawn to it because it just looks really cool.”
Kalantar said this project, which required passion and perseverance to overcome the design challenge and complex geometry, is ideal for seniors ending their undergraduate studies. It demonstrates how many components of a design have to work together for a successful structure.