The Thematic Pavilion for EXPO 2012 in Yeosu, South Korea was a grand, gilled structure called One Ocean, designed by the Austrian architecture firm soma. It features a bio-mimetic façade composed of vertical lamellas (a word that refers to thin, plate-like structures in animals, such as gills, as well as the ribs on the underside of mushrooms) made of glass fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP). The lamellas are flexible, and are opened and closed to vary interior lighting and solar heating, as well as to animate the views into and out of the building. The visual theme of the lamellas is carried into the interior, specifically in curving fin-like elements that translate onto the ceiling, but also in the continuity of curves that generally permeate and define the building.
The façade is 140 meters long, and varies in heights from 3 to 13 meters. The 108 glass fiber lamellas have high tensile strength and low bending stiffness, allowing them to experience large, reversible elastic deformations. Their shape is controlled by actuated supports at the top and bottom. According to soma, the actuators “… induce compression forces to create the complex elastic deformation. They reduce the distance between the two bearings and in this way induce a bending which results in a side rotation of the lamella. The actuator of the lamellas is a screw spindle driven by a servomotor. A computer controlled bus-system allows the synchronization of the actuators. Each lamella can be addressed individually within a specific logic of movement to show different choreographies and operation modes. Upper and lower motors often work with opposite power requirements (driving – braking). Therefore generated energy can be fed back into the local system to save energy.”
The lamellas are operated by solar panels on the build’s roof. The integration of the moving lamellas within the building’s skin was inspired by a research project at the ITKE University Stuttgart that investigates how biological moving mechanism can be applied in an architectural scale. They are one of several elements of the sustainable climate design of the building, which also features natural ventilation. The kinetic façade was developed by soma together with Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering.
Soma describes their design concept:
We experience the Ocean mainly in two ways, as an endless surface and in an immersed perspective as depth. This plain/profound duality of the Ocean motivates the building’s spatial and organizational concept. Continuous surfaces twist from vertical to horizontal orientation and define all significant interior spaces. The vertical cones invite the visitor to immerse into the Thematic Exhibition. They evolve into horizontal levels that cover the foyer and become a flexible stage for the Best Practice Area.
Continuous transitions between contrasting experiences also form the outer appearance of the Pavilion. Towards the sea the conglomeration of solid concrete cones define a new meandering coastline, a soft edge that is in constant negotiation between water and land. Opposite side the pavilion develops out of the ground into an artificial landscape with plateaus and scenic paths. The topographic lines of the roof turn into lamellas of the kinetic media façade that faces the Expo’s entrance and draws attention to the pavilion after sunset.
Bio-mimesis is not a new idea, but it is nonetheless worth noting that, as an engineering method, it represents a kind of humility. It is a kind of rejection of one of the fundamental concepts that has driven creation of the built environment for thousands of years: that of imposing man’s designs on the natural landscape. An architect or engineer who points out (in the form of a building) that we have a lot to learn about design from nature or evolution has traded in the role of teacher or master for the role of student. Wise men over the centuries have often opined that this particular form of humility is the foundation of wisdom.
Images via archdaily.com, which has covered this project extensively: