Every year in early September, as graduate students at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles put the finishing touches on their thesis projects, a Sci-Arc faculty member and students prepare a temporary pavilion for the annual graduation ceremony. This year consisting of 45,000 linear feet of knitted rope, 6000 linear feet of tube steel, and 3000 square feet of fabric shade louvers, the pavilion creates a sail-like canopy of rope and fabric that floats above the audience. With its fabric louvers tilted toward the western sky, the canopy is designed to provide shade for the specific date and time.
Netscape utilizes a double layer of netting in varying configurations to create a three-dimensional field of billowing shade louvers. Based on a conventional knitting technique, like that used in the making of a sweater, the pavilion exploits the malleability of this technique as it stretches to conform to the three-dimensional shape of the structure. Unlike a conventional net, the knitting technique is not fixed at its intersections, allowing the shape of the nets (and their grids) to contort both at the upper and the lower surface. With the nets contorting differently, the shade louvers that are stretched between them become a dynamic field of fabric, twisting and bending in order to span across the space in between.
Design of the project involved an elaborate back and forth between digital and analog systems of investigation. With engineering done by Nous Engineering, analysis of the tension in the nets provided constant feedback that informed the shape and three-dimensionality of the structure, as well as some basic form-finding for the nets. As the project progressed, however, large three-dimensional models provided a means of studying the behavior of the grids and their resulting geometries.
With the shade louvers designed to block the setting sun in the west, the view from inside the pavilion offers a dramatically different experience. The three-dimensionality of the double-layered netting reaches depths of about 10’, and becomes open and porous when facing eastward into the complex three-dimensional field of fabric and rope.