AIRLAB: Architecture Intelligence Research Lab

The client was receptive to the proposition of a structure for the Mid-Autumn Festival in 2019 after a successful first collaboration in 2016 for an interactive lantern-parade. This time, we proposed a new and more ambitious immersive experience: a lightweight inhabitable lantern-inspired pavilion, which uses functional 3D printing technology in stainless steel.

The idea was to create a magical atmosphere for visitors that highlighted selected vista points of Gardens by the Bay with aesthetics inspired by nature’s neural networks. Such an ambitious idea required the invention of a whole new constructive system, using bespoke algorithms and fabrication processes. The outcome is a result of more than five years of research and development, working with a very tight budget to advance 3D printing in structures.

A multidisciplinary team including architects, material scientists and SUTD students, developed an entirely new workflow to design free-form spatial structures with programmable load bearing systems for optimised performance and dramatic reduction in material usage.

One of the biggest challenges was the situation that 3D printed structures are still a rare sight in construction. There is very little precedence and BCA Singapore had never approved any other 3D printed structure before this project. The reality was that Airlab undertook the task of calculating the structures, worked further with civil engineers and the BCA to adhere to the stringent code, and we set new standards together for the future and new 3D printed structures.

The AirMesh pavilion demonstrates the technological advancement that has been achieved in developing a seamless and highly functional digital chain that opens up new potential for architectural practice, and also demonstrates the efficient use of material that can be seen as signum of a sustainable design of the future.

Finishes: Shapeways

Photography: Fabian Ong and Carlos Banon