Soft Matter, China by Naturalbuild

A vague precision

Project Specs

Design Firm:

非常感谢 直造建筑事务所 予gooood分享以下内容。更多关于他们:Naturalbuild on gooood.
Appreciations towards Naturalbuild for providing the following description:


The pavilion is built for 2017 Shanghai Urban Space Art Season as part of an outdoor extension of the Lingang exhibition.

▼展亭“柔物” ,pavilion “Soft Matter” ©陈颢


Nowadays, natural geological constraints of the sites are often changed and manipulated by modern technology, and Lin Gang New City in an exemplary place. Standing on the largest hydraulic fill reclamation in history, one would find it difficult to comprehend whether it is liquid or solid, natural or artificial. Inspired by the super-scaled act of land filling, we became fascinated by the ambiguity between material states as well as the unpredictability and mysteriousness of this unprecedented event. This kind of “accidental nature” became the starting point of the pavilion’s design.

▼展亭与景观,landscape ©陈颢


We took the basic architectural prototype — canopy and column. The canopy is created by polyurethane foam: a heat insulating material that is usually hidden within architecture. Upon spraying, the foam rapidly hardens and expands, which gives it a bubble-like texture. The ambiguity of the foam’s material state gives users multiple ways of scalar interpretations.

▼材料研究,material analysis ©直造建筑事务所

▼初期概念模型,initial concept model ©直造建筑事务所

▼模型研究,model study ©直造建筑事务所

▼最终模型,final model ©直造建筑事务所


We first attempted to define the curving form of the canopy through parametric physic form finding and optimization, however the outcome was overly monotonous. Therefore we turned to other options to resolve the structural deformation. Through a series of specific experiments on the materials’ performance, the architects and the structural engineer decided to pick nylon net to reinforce the polyurethane foam body. Consequentially, a new type of construction method is created: pre-stressing the nylon net by anchoring weight to different area of the surface and then spraying polyurethane onto both sides of the net. The building method of the canopy contributed to two major benefits. Firstly, as the shell structure has already been “pre-distorted”by self-weight, therefore in theory, gravity will not cause another deformation as long as the boundary conditions remain the same; moreover, the process of pre-stressing was able to lower the risk of the polyurethane foam cracking. As a result, a lightweight pre-stressed shell structure was formed.

▼覆盖下的尺度,a covered scale  ©陈颢

▼聚氨酯喷涂作业,foam spraying ©直造建筑事务所

▼充气球与开洞关系,the size of the openings are influenced by the weight of inflated balls ©直造建筑事务所


The following is the building process: before spraying the foam, we placed a numbers of inflated balls onto the nylon net and loaded each of them with different weight of sandbags. Through this process of elastic deformation, the pre-stressed property and the form of the canopy are generated. During the process of designing where to attach the sandbag weights, not only that we considered the structural integrity of the canopy, but also the users’ experience underneath the structure by articulating the sizes, quantities and positions of the inflated balls.

▼覆盖部分的形态充分考虑了使用者在其下方行走的体验,the form of the canopy responds to users’ experience underneath the structure  ©陈颢

▼与洞口的互动,interaction between users and openings ©直造建筑事务所

▼阳光里的嬉戏,playing in the sunlight ©直造建筑事务所

▼屋顶上的孩童,kids on the roof ©直造建筑事务所

与此同时,我们对展亭做了结构预测。在立柱数量及定位方面,经优化研究,在屋面挠度可接受范围内,确定了最大角部出挑5m,共6根直柱的方案。基于大变形理论的分析后,确定立柱采用50×50实心钢,柱顶由80×6方通与壳体过渡衔接。  而为对抗钢框受到尼龙网侧向拉力时发生的弯曲,我们在钢框内引入弧形钢筋,将尼龙网紧绷在其上。这一做法将网的张力转移到弧形钢筋上,再转化为钢框的轴力,从而控制了钢框的变形。在聚氨酯覆盖部分,我们则放弃对特定形式的诉求,而由支撑的钢柱的尺寸和位置决定其跨度和厚度的极值。

Meanwhile, we made structural analytical and optimization studies on the pavilion. Within an acceptable deflection range, the canopy is supported by 6 steel columns positioned on the edges of the structure with a maximum corner cantilever of 5m. Based on the theory of large deformation, we decided to use 50x50mm solid steel columns to support 80x6mm square hollow section beams that are directly connected to canopy structure. In order to ensure the steel frame’s tolerance against lateral forces, we introduced steel rebars for the nylon net to attach to. As a result, forces transferred from the rebars to the frame become axial forces that in turns reinforce the canopy’s stability. Instead of pursuing for a form, the canopy’s extreme span and thinness are generated by the dimensions and locations of the supporting steel columns.

▼钢结构,steel structure ©直造建筑事务所

▼力学分析,mechanical analysis ©和作结构建筑研究所


The combination of perceptions and precise calculations landed in a design that resembles “soft matter”. Its vague precision recreates a type of sensuous attendance that is lost in typical industrial constructions.

▼总平面,site plan ©直造建筑事务所

▼顶平面,roof plan ©直造建筑事务所

▼细部剖面,detail section ©直造建筑事务所

景观设计:一宇景观设计/ 林逸峰
结构设计:和作结构建筑研究所/ 张准
体量:15 x 9 x 2.4米
Project name: Soft Matter,
Location: Lingang Harbour City, Pudong, Shanghai, China
Design: Naturalbuild
Client: Shanghai Harbour City Development (Group) Co.,Ltd
Partners in Charge: Shui Yanfei, Su Yichi, Ma Yuanrong
Design Period: 2017.07-2017.09
Construction Period: 2017.09-2017.10
Project Team: He Haibo, Xu Hanhua, Chai Xini
Landscape Design: YIYUdesign, Lin Yifeng
Structural Engineer: AND office, Zhang Zhun
Photo credits: Chen Hao
Dimension: 15m x 9m x 2.4m

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