The “treehugger”-pavilion was constructed for and exhibited at the National Garden Show (“BuGa”) in Koblenz, Germany, in summer 2011.It resulted from a research-project on digital design and construction methods that was initiated by Dipl.-Des. Christoph Krause, director of the Chamber of Skilled Craft’s “Center for Design, Manufacturing and Communication” in Koblenz in 2009 to educate students and craftsmen in a kind of digital mason’s lodge scenario. The design has been developed by students of the University of Applied Sciences in Trier, Germany, led by Prof. Holger Hoffmann and his Düsseldorf based office One Fine Day. Frankfurt based Office for Structural Design has been responsible for the structural engineering of the project. OCHS Holzbau, Kirchberg, executed the timber/steel-construction. In addition to the project’s mere architectural aspects an integrated interactive light-installation has been developed by the Faculty of Intermedia Design together with the Faculty of Computer Sciences, both from University of Applied Sciences, Trier, as well. “treehugger” was located next to basilica St. Castor in the vicinity of “Deutsches Eck” on a plot that has previously been used as a parking lot.
Here, the pavilion was situated at a pivotal position in between the “BuGa” and the surrounding urban environment. It performed as a platform for diverse events during summer 2011 and had to house three main functions: exhibitions, lectures and workshops. In response to these demands a circuit, a centered space and a row of “cubicles” had to be implemented within one space. Normally this would result in a claim for flexibility and be answered with as little spatial or structural determination as possible. In this case however we have decided to rather superimpose the three main functions in order to create one ambiguous space that depicts the characteristics of all programs at once.
By revolving a row of main structural elements (the five tree-like columns) around a pivot in the center of the pentagonal pavilion different regions of possible action emerge: the exhibition pieces of the circuit are shielded by the tree-like columns that again create in between “cubicles” for work-stations in a workshop scenario, which are all directed towards a “Totaltheater”-like central space. Structurally, this superordinate rotational symmetry is the kick-off for a “chain of symmetries” that helps to balance the degree of complexity of the structure: within it each tree-column is axially symmetrical while it emerges from a pentagonal tiling with manifold axial symmetries. Thus “treehugger’s” specific functional and structural needs are entirely answered by a very rational system of interdependent geometrical relations.
Interestingly this rigorous design results in a very playful object that does not celebrate structural clarity but rather embraces the anticlassical “un-clear”, “as well as”, “all at once”-attitude of early German Romanticism – an important link to the city of Koblenz, which lies at the northern endpoint of the Middle-Rhine-area and was an important cage of Germany’s Romanticism area during 18th/19th Century.
For sustainability reasons “treehugger” has mainly been constructed as a modular timber-building, whereby the deliberate exhibition of a grid of wooden-beams defines the ambience of the space as well as the structural system. This rather complex modular structure appears as a merely haptic space of “structural ornaments” during the day. At night however, “treehugger” changes its appearance entirely. Then the interactive arduino-controlled light-ceiling reacts to the visitor’s movements and literally virtualizes the space and its structure – yet another reference to, the mystique, the fantastic, and the ambiguous in architecture.
In spring 2012 “treehugger” has been relocated to again serve as an exhibition space, now on the client’s own premises.
Photo © Roland Borgmann