With the focus of the competition on unexpected encounters and time, ‘dis-FIGURE’, redefines a ‘figure’ in the space and takes reference from the Gothic as a way of designing; where the pavilion privileges process over form and re-configures space not through a particular style but through a method of making. We began with the existing courtyard of Hôtel Audessan at the edge of the old Gothic quarter of Montpellier. The space reveals layers of disorder with protrusions and punctures (from varied heights of doors and windows to bay windows and arched entries to mailboxes and planters) that have slowly cluttered and mutilated the courtyard over time.

Taking inspiration from Viollet-le-Duc’s inventive structural systems that were derived from skeletons as well as Juan Valverde de Amusco’s ‘Anatomia del corpo humano’ of a cadaver holding its distorted skin; we used ‘mutilation’ as a productive opportunity to create a disfigured carcass that explores contemporary design intentions with a skeleton and its skin. With a focus on process and time, we reconfigured a traditional construction technique using intelligent digital computation to create a self-supporting, eroded carcass in the courtyard.

First, the aim was to to configure a self-supporting, figural skeleton conceived through a simple, structural logic. The use of a digitally produced ‘Reciprocal Structural’ strategy, where all the beams mutually support one another, determined the overall form through a set of structural criteria and aesthetic decisions. By taking a series of traditional Gothic vaults and applying a digitally produced reciprocal structural script, the complex form is generated from 1.5” x 1” overlapping wood members that inherently become self-supported. The vaulted space is designed to structurally maneuver around doorways that must remain accessible. The reciprocal method is not new to pavilion-scale design but by using a digital computational script, it enabled us to generate a complex, novel approach to a traditional construction method.

Second, we saw the ‘ornament [as] the figure’1 and integral to completing the temporal expression of the object. Layers of thin latex sheets ‘tattoo’ and wrap the underbelly of the structure to create an illuminated surface that glows and changes the image of the pavilion throughout the day. Layers of latex paint will be brushed over surfaces of the courtyard (walls, paving, etc.) and peeled away to reveal a thin, fleshy fabric that stretches over the structure in a ‘mutilated’ fashion - as if unexpectedly encountering the interior of the carcass. With the textures of the existing surfaces imprinted on the material, the latex preserves the memory of the courtyard and elevates its grungy qualities and aesthetics. Through the intertwining of skeleton and mutilated skin, a digitally enhanced structure and its latex ornamentation dis-figures the original form and, in turn, alludes to a new reading of the grotesque, the uncanny, and the unexpected.

Pavilion Design for the 2015 Festival des Architectures at Montpellier 
Team: Sean Morgan, Sai Lv, Nathaniel Banks