NotaNumber Architects - NaNA
The Bulgari pavilion is a temporary installation commissioned by prestigious luxury jewellery brand Bulgari for Abu Dhabi Art 2012, held at Saadiyat al Manarat Abu Dhabi, UAE. The pavilion is conceived as an exclusive and private venue with live music, a bar and a specially curated selection of Bulgari’s high end jewellery. The centerpiece of the exhibition space is a translucent canopy with a built-in light installation trying to convey the art of jewel making into a single piece of architecture.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
Saadiyat Island will become home to Jean Nouvel’s new Louvre, Frank Gehry’s new Guggenheim and Foster and Partners’ Zayed National Museum, as such the focus upon architecture and design at this year’s Abu Dhabi Art fair was significant with all three in attendance. As principal sponsors of Abu Dhabi Art 2012 Bulgari were given a prominent outdoor space at the entrance of the event to create a lounge for VIPs and dignitaries of the art fair. The client’s brief was for the creation of space that was “audacious, unexpected, yet anchored in Bulgari’s heritage”. The site was approximately 300m2 and needed to include a bar, a stage, jewellery showcases and a VVIP area with a capacity for the whole lounge of up to 150 people. Within the world of high jewellery Bulgari is considered to be particularly innovative and progressive, especially in their use of technology and creative fabrication techniques. The project was required to be both representative of Bulgari’s style and its creative ideologies, whilst being emblematic of a “modern mythology”.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
In developing the design concept for the pavilion we looked not only at Bulgari’s jewellery but also Bulgari’s own influences for their collections. In this way the pavilion was intended to complement and reinterpret the collections rather than just emulate them. Much of Bulgari’s inspiration comes from nature, be it the geometry in plants or the fluidity and ephemerality of water. This provided certain aesthetic and environmental inspirations however the principal inspiration was the distinctive use of cabochon cut jewels in Bulgari’s pieces. This is a process in which rough gemstones are polished to create a smooth rather than faceted finish. When combined with other polished stones the result is a fluid and organic piece of jewellery. In addition, whilst being renowned for their use of precious metals and gems, Bulgari’s jewellery has often used more unusual materials such as ceramic. The reappropriation of something mundane and transforming it into something magnificent became the starting point for our design concept. The design of the pavilion aimed to be both reminiscent of Bulgari’s Italian heritage whilst being representative of its own fabrication and structure. In this sense a certain brutal honesty was desired it the final outcome so that the form was a self supporting entity in itself without the need for a separate internal structure; therefore the form was not merely a decorative veil. To achieve this however required careful consideration and analysis of both material and construction technique.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
After a period of extensive prototyping and experimenting a design based upon the packing of acrylic tubes was devised. Acrylic tubes are an “off-the-self” product that come in set lengths and diameters. Although they have a diverse range of uses they are rarely used as principal architectural elements. By packing them close together not only do they begin to form mass but also provide structural rigidity. Much like the rough gemstone the concept was to slice and cut, smooth and polish the form to result in new spaces and environmental conditions, to reinvent the material as something extraordinary and unique. Whilst attempting to create a wholly new spatial experience the team were also keen for it to simultaneously be something completely familiar, evocative of Bulgari’s heritage. In this way it was decided to form arches, arcades and cupolas through the excavation and sculpting. As well as being exposed and translucent this method provided a recognizable enclosure and intimacy all be it an ethereal sensation of it. Having developed a design concept the idea was adapted to the site, budget and requirements of the brief. Working in close collaboration with the structural engineer a repeating pattern consisting of 4 varying tube diameters was devised to provide maximum structural integrity, reduce cost, and ease the construction process. Continuing with the desire to create a holistic design, a bespoke connection technique was formulated using polycarbonate dowels secured with polycarbonate pins. This provide not only a quick and simple assembly method but also minimized the impact the connections had aesthetically unifying the design through a single material. The design process was an iterative exercise moving back and forth between scripted and parametrically defined computer models and physical prototypes and tests. In this way the possibilities and limitations of this construction technique could be explored validating some concepts and dismissing others. Importantly, with the use of physical prototypes our team were forced to confront the fabrication methodologies needed at an early stage and as such could begin to consider the best ways in which to document and communicate the design for fabrication whilst still designing. In parallel a team from Artisan worked on the lighting design for the project. The event was in both the day and night and as a translucent structure there were a number of exciting opportunities for the team to investigate for when the sun went down. During the day the pavilion plays and manipulates the changing conditions of the sunlight however at night the aim was to provide an alternative experience in which the light flowed through the structure like water constantly hiding and revealing different parts of the pavilion.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
The pavilion is a highly experimental structure composed of 2500 tubes of cast acrylic with 10000 individual connections between them with a final weight of nearly 6 tonnes. It’s a unique structure in its use of acrylic as the sole structural as well as architectural element that makes space of extraordinary aesthetic qualities. The fabrication method developed for the pavilion is also one of the main features that add value to this achievement taking into consideration the great complexity of the project compared to the limited technological resources available in the region. Initially it had been assumed that the project would be digital fabricated with the 2500 tubes being CNC cut and drilled. However it soon became apparent that this would not be possible, as the appropriate machinery was not available. As such a distinctly low-tech alternative needed to be implemented based upon the manpower, skills and equipment available in UAE. This required quite a radical rethink in the design process with the consideration for complexity, timescale and error. To make it as quick and easy as possible for a workforce unfamiliar with the design or this type of construction a detailed sequence of actions had to be devised and communicated as well as a number of bespoke tools and jigs had to be designed in order to aid in the cutting and drilling of the vast number of pieces.
Masterfully demonstrates the application of sophisticated technological processes in the manufacture of its elements, denoting the big budget invested, is consistent with the brand of jewelry, the space becomes relaxed and transformed all the time with the intervention of the lights. – Mauricio Lara
Space linked to the level and status of the brand. Very good constructive solution of the hanging bolts and cylinders to join. Definitely a carefully designed down to the last detail. – Sebastián Lara
The installation is very elegant, with Parametric design and outstanding lighting. Sober but not simple, it creates a bit of unexpected spaces. Well positioned brand in luxury and design. – Michel Rojkind
Very good design, but like Miyake’m not proposing anything new. – Carla Fernandez
I like the almost obsessive idea of creating a complex geometry out of a single element. – Andres Mier y Teran