Entering its second year on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a robotically fabricated structure created in part by Virginia Tech faculty and students has seen more than 1.2 million visitors and become a fixture near Rowes Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts. The experimental “Lo-Fab Pavilion,” which stands for “locally fabricated,” was erected on the greenway in July of 2015 as a featured public installation in the Design Biennial Boston.

The pavilion will remain in Boston for the summer of 2016 alongside installations by internationally renowned artists as part of the Public Art Program hosted by the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Throughout the summer, the pavilion will be on exhibit along with Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads,” Don Kennell’s “Monkey See,” Gianna Stewart’s “Midden,” Lawrence Weiner’s “A Translation from one Language to Another,” Matthew Hoffman’s “May This Never End,” and Carolina Aragon’s “High Tide.”    

As part of a May 19 grand opening event, the pavilion housed a performance by musicians from Berklee College of Music. 

The experimental pavilion represents the first building project produced using the newly launched Center for Design Research’s Design Robotics Studio led by Assistant Professor of Architecture Nathan King, Research Assistant Professor Chip Clark, and director of the Center for Design Research Robert Dunay. In the spring of 2015, a series of design charrettes were held between faculty from the Center for Design Research, students from Virginia Tech’s architecture and industrial design programs, MASS Design Group, and computational design consultants The United Nathans.

These engagements resulted in the development of an experimental gridshell structure built using state-of-the-art collaborative robotic fabrication techniques and a merger of traditional craftsmanship and computationally driven manufacturing processes. Then the team worked in collaboration with Autodesk to develop a novel design-to-robotic fabrication workflow using the emerging visual scripting interface Dynamo.

The Lo-Fab Pavilion, an extension of research conducted in Virginia Tech’s School Center for Design Research in the School of Architecture + Design, has led to several international exhibitions, workshops, and presentations, including the recent workshops at the International Convention on Robots in Architecture, Art, and Design in Sydney, Australia; the LogJam Cluster at Smart Geometry in Gothenburg, Sweden; and the upcoming Multi-species Optimization workshop at the 2016 ACADIA conference in the fall of 2016, led by Assistant Professor Nathan King and visiting Assistant Professor Gustav Fagerstrom.

Virginia Tech Center for Design Research

The Center for Design Research navigates between the perceived certainty of calculation, and the artistic, intuitive processes that designers bring to situations of uncertainty, instability, and uniqueness. It links the academy and practice through shared interests in applied research, establishes corporate partnerships and sponsorships within the prospectus of design research, expands capacity by building relationships within the design professions and affiliated industries, initiates collaborative research projects within and beyond the boundaries of the university, and strengthens all areas of research through cross-disciplinary team building.

Their work includes three solar houses for the Solar Decathlon Competition sponsored by the Department of Energy. It has also taken students and faculty to five exhibits in the Javits Center in New York; the Cologne Furniture Fair; the SalonSatellite in Milan; exhibitions at the National Building Museum Millennium Park, and Times Square; a joint exhibition with the Farnsworth House and the design and construction of a house for the TV show Extreme Makeover/Home Edition. LumenHAUS, the third solar house, won the international Solar Decathlon Europe Competition in Madrid, Spain, and was recognized by the American Institute of Architects with an Institute Award for Excellence in Architecture as one of the nation’s best works of architecture in 2012.

MASS Design Group

MASS Design Group is an architecture firm based in Boston, Massachusetts, and Kigali, Rwanda. MASS aims to improve people’ lives through design. Its work in the U.S. and internationally focuses on leveraging architecture, as well as the design and construction processes, to become engines for better health, economic growth, and long-term sustainability. In emphasizing social impact as well as design, MASS seeks to redefine the potential that architecture has as a critical and proactive practice. The group bookends the traditional design and construction process with deep immersion in the community it builds for before design conceptualization begins, and conduct robust post-occupancy evaluations to measure architecture’s impact following construction. Additionally, MASS maintains an extensive in-house research and training lab to identify new methods of practice, train young architects, and expand architecture’s potential.

Support and in-kind donations were provided by:

  • MASS Design Group
    Autodesk, BUILD Grant Program
    Virginia Tech Center for Design Research, School of Architecture + Design
    The United Nathans
    Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies
    The Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology at Virginia Tech
    Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy
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