A timber pavilion featured at the 2021 London Design Biennale explored how we can use nature based solutions to build back better and address the challenges of the built environment including the climate crisis.

Unfolding – created by the Centre for Natural Material Innovation at the University of Cambridge, with partners PLP Architecture and Dukta, and enabled by the Construction Innovation Hub featured at the prestigious design exhibition held from 1-27 June at Somerset House in London.

The pavilion showcased research conducted by Ana Gatóo and Antiopi Koronaki from the Centre for Natural Material Innovation. It uses a cutting technique known as kerfing, that involves scoring and cutting the timber in specific patterns that affect the strength and flexibility of the wood. These allow the flat, rigid panels that make up the structure to be folded or curved into intricate patterns that mimic the shape and flexibility of trees and other natural structures. The pavilion explores the properties of timber through the different size, positioning and geometry of the kerf patterns and how these impact the folds and curves that can be made. The structure is designed so that it is easy to construct and disassemble and joined using specially designed pegs that can be reused multiple times.

Ron Lang, Chief Technical Officer for the Construction Innovation Hub, said, “As well as being a beautiful structure the timber pavilion demonstrates the potential for using engineered timber for the production of flexible housing and other buildings. Low carbon cross-laminated timber (CLT) can be used to create flexible and adaptable spaces using platform approaches that aligned with the Construction Innovation Hub’s Platform Rulebook principles.

“Timber is the only building material that sequesters carbon in its cells whilst the trees are growing. Combined with the development of novel design methodologies, aligned with the principles of design for disassembly and modern methods of construction, this holistic approach aims to reduce the emissions of the construction industry in line with UK sustainability targets.” 

Ana Gatóo, PhD Researcher at the Centre for Natural Material Innovation, University of Cambridge saidFrom the beginning we wanted to have a pavilion that resembled a walk through the forest and gave the opportunity for people to experience the feeling of being inside a timber structure. Engineered timber is a fairly new material. Its potential is yet to be understood. With UnFolding we intended to explore some of its possibilities for the future of buildings.”

In our new video Antiopi introduces and explains the Unfolding pavilion and London Design Biennale Director Victoria Broackes shares how it aligned with the Biennale’s focus on sustainability.

Find out more: