Conference Paper: Peer reviewed

Building Indeterminacy Modelling – Computational Design And Low-Tech Construction Of A Hong Kong Bamboo Grid-Shell

by Crolla K. and Fingrut A.

ABSTRACT | This paper discusses the ‘ZCB Bamboo Pavilion’ as a case study for the computational design and building information modelling of structures where both applied materials and available craftsmanship are highly unpredictable in terms of accuracy and precision. The ‘ZCB Bamboo Pavilion’ is a thirty metres spanning, light-weight, and bending-active gridshell, completed in Hong Kong in September 2015 as a public event space. It is built from unprocessed bamboo poles, hand tied together according to traditional Cantonese bamboo scaffolding craftsmanship, and covered with tensile fabric.

The paper begins by describing the geometrically complex and structurally high-performing project, and illustrates the low-tech context in which it was realised. Built from flexible components, the pavilion’s tectonic system is a diagrid shell structure that folds down into three large hollow columns. It was developed using physics simulation engines and physical model prototyping. The bamboo used has widely varying geometric, dimensional, and performative properties, and the scaffolding industry, on whose principles it was based, does not use conventional architectural drawings for its intuitive construction, creating a highly indeterminate and complex field of operation.
Next, the paper discusses the building information modelling protocols put in place to respond to indeterminacies. It discusses the digital design models, the abstractions, and the assumptions that were strategically applied when developing the singular digital design proposal. The paper examines ways in which the digital modelling environment played an ongoing role in design as new refined data was added to the system. It then covers the construction documentation and annotation information that were used for onsite approximation.
The paper then discusses Hong Kong’s building code and architectural practice with respect to indeterminacy. The ‘ZCB Bamboo Pavilion’ highlights how conservative local building cultures can move towards more effective incorporation of natural materials. The paper concludes by discussing the necessity for digital design practice to proactively operate within a field of real-world indeterminacy. Risk, probability, and ambiguity are to be strategically balanced out against idealized digital set-ups and design priorities.

KEYWORDS | High-tech versus Low-tech; Protocol for Error; Bamboo Architecture; Bending-active Gridshell; Form-finding; ZCB Bamboo Pavilion; Participatory Action Research; Reflective Practice

CITATION |Crolla, Kristof, and Fingrut Adam. “Building Indeterminacy Modelling – Computational Design And Low-Tech Construction Of A Hong Kong Bamboo Grid-Shell”, Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Computing in Civil and Building Engineering (ICCCBE 2016), 8 pgs., Osaka, Japan, July, 2016, 389-397