German Bowooss Pavilion Puts Wood To Work In New Ways

How to create a sustainable, flexible and lightweight temporary structure for exhibitions and festivals? Architecture students at Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany, have proposed a novel solution in Bowooss (which comes to us via eVolo), a pavilion composed entirely out of wood whose form draws inspiration from marine plankton.

According to Goran Pohl, as reported in NASA’s Astrophysics Data System, the kind of shell construction you see in this project is often used for the most efficient, large spatial structures, but until now, the use of wood has played a rather marginal role. Wood, as a building material, offers some serious green advantages over just about any other building material on earth, in that it’s a renewable resource that performs the happy function of sequestering carbon during its life as a tree. The biomimetic approach not only creates an appealing form, but allows for the use of wood, in that it doesn’t put too much load on any one area of the structure, not unlike Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome.

Bowoos Bionic Research Pavilion

image via eVolo

What’s more, those regular, repeating, modular shapes can be fabricated in a factory — rather than on site — reducing resource waste, and fold up tight during transport, minimizing the amount of gas needed to transport the pavilion. Such a structure, we imagine, could easily wrapped in a lightweight, phthalate‐free, recyclable PVC fabric, as was the Basketball Arena at the London Olympics, for the purposes of weatherproofing. But the structure as it stands also offers some unique benefits in the form of aesthetically pleasing, dappled patterns of sun and shadow, not unlike the smart origami sunshades under development at the University of Oregon we covered last week, or those brise soleil shades used to fine effect in the Phoenix concept design, House in Shadow.

Bowooss Bionic Research Pavilion

image via eVolo

The students who designed the pavilion see this pavilion as a proof of concept for modular wood shell structures, heralding a new technique for architects to consider. They also see it as an ideal place for passersby to stop and relax; toward that end, the Bowooss pavilion was even outfitted with swinging hammocks.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.