The design of the Singapore University of Technology and Design Open House ‘Ribbon’ is based on a parametrically designed continuous parametric structure, an analogous device used to give visual expression to the integrative curriculum of the new university. The Ribbon weaves in and out of the lobby space, directed by a series of pre-defined nodes, and connects various spaces above and below. Where it passes between the lobby’s ceiling and floor, it materializes as one of the six pavilions. The constantly changing geometry of the ribbon leads to a unique form for each one of the structures. It also introduces a meandering circulation to the lobby space. To maintain the perception of the curvature of the pavilions and to add to their structural soundness, the design utilizes a system of parametrically derived lateral members. These correspond to the stress densities in the Ribbon at moments of extreme curvature that were computationally analyzed and translated into a seemingly random yet precise placement of the lateral members that is the result of the particular local geometries of the Ribbon.
In order to maintain the natural lighting and the visual connection of the entrance to the courtyard and the other campus buildings behind, the vertical members of the pavilions, spaced at 25 cm, divide the ribbon into a series of strips that run the full 3.5m height of the space and parallel to the main view axis. This dematerializes the structures to a series of thin lines when looked at from the direction of the entrance toward the courtyard and into an opaque wall of layered material from the other, producing constantly changing views of the space as one moves in between the structures. The vertical members are further connected by recessed tracks at the top and the bottom and connected to adjacent columns. Each pavilion can be equipped with a large screen for exhibition purposes.
The design of the Open House Ribbon utilises a combination of digital design and fabrication technologies, allowing entirely customized members to be fitted together with a minimal amount of instruction and relatively low fabrication costs. The vertical members, display shelves and bottom and top tracks of the structures are built from approximately 300 unique marine plywood strips. The lateral members consist of aluminum rods. In order to keep labor costs to a minimum, a standardized assembly process was needed that nevertheless allowed for highly customized pieces. The contractor was provided with optimized cutsheets for standard-sized sheets of marine plywood that avoided material waste. The fabrication of the pavilion components was automated off-site, using a CNC mill. All dimensions were kept small enough to allow the individual components to be handled on site without the use of machines and scaffolding. All elements and holes for the lateral members were numbered to allow for rapid on-site assembly. The project was published in Singapore Architect 266.