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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Expandable Surface Pavilion in Cologne, Germany by Pablo Esteban Zamorano

November 29th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Pablo Esteban Zamorano

As a development of ongoing research, architects Pablo Zamorano and Jacob Bek, and designer Nacho Marti­ in collaboration with the Emergent Technologies & Design Research Programme at the Architecutural Assoiciaiton, are exhibiting an exciting new experiment in pushing the boundaries of a highly efficient and sustainable fabrication process of a standard natural sheet material. The design manifested into an exhibition and meeting room pavilion that explores complex geometries generated by simple cut patterning in sheets.


  • Architects: Pablo Esteban Zamorano
  • Project: Expandable Surface Pavilion
  • Location: Cologne, Germany
  • Client: RESOL
  • Project Year: 2011
  • Size: 16M2
  • Design Team: Nacho Marti­, Jacob Bek, Pablo Zamorano.
  • Fabrication Team: Jack Chandy Francis, Ivan Felipe Ucros Polley,Sherwood Wang
  • Software used: Rhino, Grasshopper and VB script

Interior View

One of the largest inefficiencies in building systems today is the overlap and lack of integration between building elements. The Expandable Surface System looks to integrate all elements into one – structure, facade and shading while developing a sustainable mode of fabrication. In order to achieve this out of the sheet material, the system will need to utilize double curvature. This reason alone, a non-homogeneous cut pattern was required to allow for vertical resistance, while allowing for rotation or bending to permit a reasonable horizontal span for inhabitation.


To realize the built structure, the team underwent extensive structural and geometric digital analysis to understand and anticipate the reaction between the material and pattern. A system of mathematical relationships were derived to control found material properties digitally. This iterative process was then scrutinized and revised by findings resulted from structural analysis. The ability to understand material properties from the standpoint of geometry lead to the success of the project. These processes are always directly linked to designing for material efficiently, reduced construction waste, and low energy means of fabrication, transportation and assembly. It was a great lesson for the designers to learn from the material. This feedback was the guiding factor in the design process.


While the construction not only examines issues of material, geometry, and computation; the success of the design was contingent on questions of fabrication, minimal waste, and deployability. In rethinking contemporary modes of construction, this proposal aims to achieve zero material waste. The fabrication process is down to less than 2 percent waste. The system logic and geometric design is embedded in the material directly, rendering no need for additional systems of support or assembly. With minimal or zero energy, digital fabrication files can be sent to CNC facilities all over the globe in seconds, with minimal time or energy loss in transportation. Since the pattern is made out of straight lines, the cutting time for each panel is 18 minutes.


Panels can then be formed and locally assembled onsite without disposable formwork waste. It becomes key to not only evaluate a design, but understand and design for the full lifecycle of the structure from harvesting materials, to design, fabrication, installation, and material reuse.


As a truly novel method of design and construction, the Expandable Surface Exhibition Pavilion continually questions contemporary practices to look to a more seamless and sustainable building process. From this natural progression and design process, the environmental and light qualities offer an extraordinary user experience. Inhabitants quickly develop a relationship with the material, design and fabrication process.

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Categories: Grasshopper, Pavilion, Rhino

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