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RAIC Awards – Innovation in Architecture

Patkau Architects' One Fold is a provocation to rethink our relationship, as architects, to materials and our means of employing them.

May 1, 2015
by Canadian Architect

A model for a garden pavilion formed from two welded vaults. Photo by Jimmy Dow

A model for a garden pavilion formed from two welded vaults. Photo by Jimmy Dow

ARCHITECT Patkau Architects

One Fold is an experimental project exploring the architectural possibilities of folding a single sheet of steel one time. The project takes its inspiration from a challenge put to origami artist Paul Jackson; make an origami sculpture with only one fold. One Fold takes on that challenge at the scale of inhabitable space. To make that shift in scale demands a shift in material, from paper to steel, and that shift in material in turn demands a new technique. The conventional punch-and-die press brake—which is used to fold sheet steel—becomes the subject of adaptation, and through an iterative process evolves into a unique device.

The project was inspired by simple origami folds. Photo by Patkau Architects

The project was inspired by simple origami folds. Photo by Patkau Architects

Full-scale sculptures were created in the office courtyard. Photo by Patkau Architects

Full-scale sculptures were created in the office courtyard. Photo by Patkau Architects

Use of this adapted brake yields a surprisingly beautiful, self-supporting form that springs out of the nature of the material. Between the crisp straight lines and elegant curvature, ideal structural geometry naturally expresses itself throughout the surface of the sheet. As a monocoque thin-shell enclosure, One Fold is lightweight, durable, demountable and recyclable. As a sculptural form it is surprising and engaging from all angles.

Renderings of display pavilions commissioned for a Comme des Garçons store in Ginza, Tokyo.

Renderings of display pavilions commissioned for a Comme des Garçons store in Ginza, Tokyo.

The possibilities of the One Fold principles were explored through a variety of projects. The first of these applications was a response to a request from Comme des Garçons in Tokyo for a module that could be used both for display and as a change room in their new Ginza store. A module comprised of a nested pair of 5’ x 12’ “broken” vaults was proposed; oriented vertically, the vaults described a space for display and also, with the addition of a fabric curtain, could be used as a change room.

Plan of Garden Naum, a pavilion made from a cluster of three vaults.

Plan of Garden Naum, a pavilion made from a cluster of three vaults.

Elevation of Garden Naum, a pavilion made from a cluster of three vaults.

Elevation of Garden Naum, a pavilion made from a cluster of three vaults.

Following the display/change room project, a larger-scale proposal was developed for a landscape shelter formed by a cluster of vaults which utilize three 10’ x 24’ sheets of stainless steel. The third application, Garden Naum, was developed as a response to a request for a garden pavilion. Here, two 7.5’ x 12’ “broken” vaults are welded together with the addition of a folded roof/gutter to provide a monolithic, largely enclosed volume with two openings—a principal opening oriented toward the distant view of harbour and mountains, and a secondary opening oriented toward the more intimate garden context. In all three applications, the resulting assemblage of vaulted forms shares the juxtaposition of straight line and graceful curve that is further enhanced by the lustrous surfaces of stainless steel.

Sample output from the bending process. Photo by Patkau Architects

Sample output from the bending process. Photo by Patkau Architects

Sample output from the bending process. Photo by Patkau Architects

Sample output from the bending process. Photo by Patkau Architects

The potential applications are far from exhausted, as the possibilities continue to be explored. In the long architectural ambition to realize structures with ever-higher strength-to-weight ratios, One Fold is a significant step. It is an efficient structure that embodies a minimal ecological footprint. More than this, it represents an attention to material that finds beauty in structure and structure in beauty, promoting that aspiration within architecture generally. One Fold is, in that sense, a solution but also a provocation to rethink our relationship, as architects, to materials and our means of employing them.

Jury Comments
The two projects selected for the Innovation in Architecture Award are extraordinary examples of true innovation that is significant, repeatable and applicable to the profession. The projects are “bookends” of the same focus on continual research, investigation and development by two firms with long histories of significant works.



Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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