AA EmTech and Hassell collaborate on the Re-Emerge pavilion in Bedford Square

Re-Emerge pavilion

The Architectural Association (AA) Emergent Technologies and Design (EmTech) postgraduate programme has collaborated with Hassell to create a new pavilion in Bedford Square titled Re-Emerge. The EmTech programme has a long history of designing and creating structures and pavilions; Re-Emerge represents its students’ first opportunity since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic to work
closely together on the fabrication and assembly of a full-scale structure.

The Re-Emerge pavilion explores new design and construction technologies which repurpose materials that have completed their first life cycle into innovative structural formations. The project addresses themes of generative design, material computation, large-scale fabrication and assembly technologies, minimising the pavilion’s ecological impact from the earliest phases of the design process onwards with only use reclaimed timber.

Xavier De Kestelier, Head of Design at Hassell, noted that “The students really took on the challenge with both hands and decided early on to build the pavilion out of timber from reclaimed wooden pallets.” Re-Emerge revives the tradition of building on Bedford Square as a collaboration between an academic programme at the AA and partners from the world of practice, to test ideas at scale and imagine new possibilities.

Elif Erdine, Programme Head of the EmTech programme, comments: “This collaboration with Hassell provides a successful demonstration of how academia and practice can come together to discover novel solutions to complex spatial and material problems. With the support of our other sponsors, BuroHappold Engineering and One Click LCA, EmTech and Hassell explored new design and construction technologies for repurposing timber.

She added: “As designers, architects and engineers, we share the responsibility to maintain a mindful approach towards our environment while designing and building. Our mutual insight into how construction waste can be a useful resource has originated this research into repurposing timber for an outdoor structure that is lightweight, emphasising the project’s ecological impact from the early phases of the design process.

Construction Waste is Useful
Wood is inherently the best biofabricated and biodegradable material; it is renewable, resilient and lasts for a long time. When a timber building is demolished after several decades, it does not produce useless waste but instead generates reclaimed wood that can be reused and repurposed in other applications after disassembly, becoming part of the circular economy.

Re-Emerge is created with Grade A reclaimed wood pallets, one of the most abundant reused timber elements in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry yet one which generally ends up in landfill or burnt as fuel. Instead, in Re-Emerge, their structural and morphological capacities are explored and exploited. The reclaimed pallets used in the pavilion have been collected from various timber recycling facilities in and outside London.

Xavier De Kestelier explains: “For the last couple of decades, architects have often focused on the performance of buildings and minimising operational carbon within them. But with the need to tackle climate change more urgently we also need to look at embodied carbon. Re-Emerge was a great way for the students to start embedding this approach in their design.

Complexity Arises from Simplicity
The structural system for Re-Emerge comprises diamond-shaped volumetric timber modules that are created by scoring and kerfing wood pallets. These diamond modules are organised into structural ribs which are then assembled with lap joints, thereby diminishing the need for secondary materials in the joinery system.

The system can sustain loads in vertical and horizontal arrangements. Erdine explains: “In this project we aimed to explore how complexity can arise from simplicity. This was adopted by the variable aggregation of similar modules that are formed by scoring and steam-bending. A further ambition of the project was to diminish the need for secondary materials in the joinery system, and this decision has led us to work with lap joinery throughout the structure.”

Conscious Fabrication and Installation
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the reclaimed timber planks employed within Re-Emerge provided useful information which informed the pavilion’s preliminary design phase. Analysis of most plywood types used for external construction versus solid timber planks demonstrated that CO2 emissions from plywood are significantly higher than solid planks during the preparation stage.

Third Life
At the end of its second life-cycle, Re-Emerge will be disassembled. Part of the pavilion will be erected in the Hassell offices in London and part of it will be sent back to the timber recycling facilities where its materials were sourced. The ambition of Re-Emerge is to create a strong dialogue between the local timber industry and its by-products, and to demonstrate to the world that innovative timber architecture can be created with construction waste while maintaining a mindful approach towards our environment. Source by AA EmTech and Hassell and photos Courtesy of Hassell.