Phu Hoang Office & Rachely Rotem Studio
Art Basel Miami Beach & Creative Time
Exhale Pavilion, which covers a 25,000 SF beach site, literally shifts with the weather, producing an open and dynamic environment. The project created a public art venue for the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair. The site was temporarily transformed by seven miles of hanging ropes swaying in the wind.
PHU HOANG OFFICE & RACHELY ROTEM STUDIO Architecture & Design: Phu Hoang, Rachely Rotem, Ammr Vandal, Federica von Euw, Sunghyun Park Structural Design Engineer: Ho-Yan Cheung, Arup Structural Engineer of Record: Youssef Hachem, YH Engineering
Professional Photography: Robin Hill
Astrid Klein: All of the judges were drawn to this project immediately by the way the pavilion formed a dynamic installation that interacted with wind and light on the beach, making what is normally invisible visible. But it was the economy of means which really impressed us as this 25,000 sq ft pavilion was basically constructed of rope. Although the draped catenary forms generate visual surfaces – they allow the wind to pass through, totally reducing the structural requirements of the pavilion. We particulary enjoyed the use of natural technology such as the phosphorescent coating on the ropes, charged by ultraviolets lights which responded to wind speed and the movement of people. The Exhale Pavilion is a delight, it's light touch, natural forms, maximum footprint coverage vs minimum waste is totally appropriate for it's ephemeral 5 day life span during the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair.
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
On all of our collaborations, we conceive constraints as the conditions that initiate innovation and opportunity. We were excited by envisioning public space in a beachfront site. The key challenges were in designing a temporary public architecture environment that created a strong visual presence while also providing multiple performance areas for the various performing art programs. Our design also needed to withstand the significant wind loads associated with the site—we used the structural constraints of these wind forces to initiate our creative process.
Wind became a generator for the design of the project. Wind is inherently without form. The Exhale pavilion harnesses this essential formlessness to create a dynamic interactive environment. The hanging ropes swaying in the wind allow for the form of the pavilion to literally shift with the weather, producing an open, flexible and dynamic environment. As opposed to a solid or planar surface, the ropes allowed for the wind to pass through the environment, thereby minimizing the structural requirements. The design of the rope canopy created an open ground plan that allowed for varying types of performance areas, providing novel relationships between public art and architecture.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
Our creative collaboration is very synergetic in its nature. In our collaborative projects, we synthesize the research and expertise from our practices into each design. We are fascinated with the possibilities that interactive architecture can bring to the built environment. We design novel relationships between architecture and the environment. For us, this is more than "sustainability"-- it is about conceiving of the environment as an interactive experience. These two research focus of ours—interactivity and the environment-- were synthesized together in the Exhale pavilion as the public interacted with the dynamically wind forces on the site.
The Exhale pavilion used two types of rope to create these interactive environments. Some ropes were reflective while others were phosphorescent; together they produced a canopy that shimmers and glows in the night. The reflective ropes shimmered as the night winds moved through them. When the wind would reach a particular speed, it would momentarily activate special ultraviolet lights, "charging" the glowing phosphorescent rope. Other, smaller wind speed sensors mounted at human height respond directly to users’ behavior. When someone blew on a sensor, it momentarily “charged” the nearby glowing ropes. Rather than relying on fixed relationships, we were staging possibilities for the public to experience the wind with the medium of ropes and light. We were giving form to the site’s wind effects while also creating new forms of public interaction with the environment.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
We conceive of our projects from the point of view of multiple potential users. The success of this project relied on negotiating between all of the people that are involved in the project-- our clients, our consultants, the fabricators, the city official, the performing artists and above all, the public. From early on, our design process integrated a constraint that we needed to minimize on-site construction time while maintaining the integrity of our vision. The Exhale pavilion had an on-site construction schedule that was only ten days!
The prefabricated steel tripod structures were attached to pre-cast concrete bases. Each concrete base supported a bench, table, or countertop—all of these components were prefabricated off-site. All of the hanging ropes were cut and preassembled in a factory to arrive on site ready to be erected. As a result of our efforts, half of the labor for the Exhale pavilion was prefabricated, preassembled, or precast—resulting in significant savings for on-site union labor costs.
We designed for both the "life" of the Exhale pavilion as well as its "afterlife." Especially when designing for an event that lasts for five days, the lifecycle of the materials used is very important. All seven miles of rope were donated to a non-profit organization. All of the steel was recycled. The concrete bases were donated to form an artificial reef in the ocean waters off of Miami. So, the pavilion had an “afterlife” that created an underwater environment for sea-life and scuba divers!
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
We developed the Exhale pavilion in a design process that included material development and developing new lighting technology. We are excited by technology that is both high technology and low technology. It is the interactions between high and low technology that we find incredible creative potential. The "low tech" is with both the phosphorescent and reflective ropes that we custom designed with the manufacturer. The reflective rope is specially woven with a maximum amount of reflective tracers--which will make it "shimmer" in the night. An example of our "high tech" design is with the interactive wind speed sensors that detect site wind conditions and sends this signal to a computerized light control system. With our lighting designer, we developed a technology that translated wind speed data into the digital lighting sequences. When the wind would reach a particular speed, it would activate specialty lighting sequences.
Both the low technology and high technology was developed in order to explore the potential relationships between them. We tested both of them in numerous conditions, both indoor and outdoor in order to find the best solution. In the interaction between high technology and low technology, we aim to reconnect to the ordinary-- in its nature, it is changing and dynamic. We are conscious of and excited by everyday events. In doing so, we use technology to enhance the ordinary rather than to neutralize it.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
We create environments that provide for participants to dynamically experience architecture and the environment. We design for possibilities and not for fixed outcomes. We design relationships between buildings and their environments—both natural and artificial. The Exhale pavilion provided the public with the ability to dynamically interact with the wind forces on the site. Visitors experienced the wind and rope interactions changing each night depending on the weather. In heavy winds, the pavilion will "breathe" more actively while lighter winds had a more calming effect. Visitors also interacted with the “floating ropes” installation. In addition to the environmental wind sensors, the installation included user responsive wind speed sensors. They were mounted at human height to respond directly to users' behavior. When someone blows on a sensor, it momentarily "charges" the field of nearby glowing ropes. The temporary nature of the Exhale pavilion allowed us to consider the life-cycle of a project during our design process. As we previously mentioned, the entire pavilion was either recycled or donated for reuse. Especially when designing for temporary events, the lifecycle of the materials used is very important and must be considered from the outset of the project.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
Permanent architecture is a lengthy and costly endeavor. The scope of temporary environments is not subjected to the difficulties of permanence. We knew that the temporary nature of this kind of project was a unique opportunity. Temporary environments are faster to design, manufacture and build; they also provide the opportunity to explore novel contemporary experiences for public space. As we mentioned, the schedule of the project required that the on-site time was ten days. The project itself lasted for only five days. On the last day of the art performance events, the city suggested that they would extend the life of the pavilion by transforming it into a temporary urban park. The city was interested in taking over the liability, maintenance and disassembly of the Exhale pavilion. Unfortunately, this process started too late to be achievable before the disassembly schedule began. If we could have done one thing different with the project, we would have initiated the possibility of transforming the pavilion into a temporary park much sooner. It would have required significant coordination efforts with the City of Miami Beach officials, but the effort would have certainly been worth it!