RAIC Awards – Innovation in Architecture: One Fold, Patkau Architects
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.