‘Trifolium’ pavilion by AR-MA: A radically futuristic specimen of modern architecture


In the Zen Garden at Sydney’s Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation stands a uniquely fascinating pavilion that is impressive in terms of its conceptual design as well as flawless execution. Designed by Sydney-based architectural firm AR-MA, the ‘Trifolium’ is also the winner of SCAF’s 2014 ‘Fugitive Structures’ pavilion competition.

Trifolium_by_AR-MA_4The word ‘Trifolium’, derived from Latin sources, literally means three leaves. The three curved arches of this self-supporting temporary pavilion actually emulate the natural shape of leaves. Its highly experimental, egg shell-like structure is designed entirely by means of advanced computer design.

Trifolium_by_AR-MA_5Corian, a pliable surface material developed by DuPont, is used to create the versatile exterior shell. 19 mm thick, robotically-shaped Corian panels are first secured on a strengthened metal framework and then skilfully arranged in patterns that resemble the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

trifolium2The inner surface of the pavilion consists of laser-cut, black mirror-polished stainless steel segments, each of which is uniquely attached to a corresponding Corian piece to create the futuristic design of the ‘Trifolium’.

Trifolium_by_AR-MA__3The mirror pieces are individually shaped and curved, and are then affixed to the Corian shell by means of 452 unique, digitally produced steel brackets.Trifolium_by_AR-MA-6Structural analysis software programs, developed by Robert Benson, Director of AR-MA, in collaboration with the multinational engineering firm Arup, have been used to build the highly complex and mathematically precise set-up of the pavilion.

Trifolium_by_AR-MA_2The structural pavilion also includes a number of LED lights, that are strategically placed in between the metallic segments as well as inside the granite foot walk, such that the light gets reflected by the mirrors to create a spectacular kaleidoscopic effect.

All the components of the $400,000 worth ‘Trifolium’ were actually constructed off-site and later assembled at the SCAF garden in merely eight days. In an attempt to highlight the objective of the project, Robert Benson says:

This pavilion allows us to conduct a series of experiments on a small structure. In particular, we’re interested in the interior and in constructing an affective relationship between it and the participants as well as the exterior. We designed the interior first and foremost. It’s not that everything else is an afterthought or a necessity, but the interior drives the whole project.


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