Pavilion Babs

Intervention Architecture Ltd, Birmingham, 2017


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A flatpack CNC timber pavilion, designed by school children, built by a multi-disciplinary team of architects, engineers and makers.

A flatpack CNC timber pavilion, designed by school children as part of an educational weekend providing insights into careers in construction, built by a multi-disciplinary team of architects, engineers and makers.

Today’s students are the architect’s and engineer’s of tomorrow, they are the next generation designers.

This ‘Next Generation Design’ project, funded by the IstructE and wider sponsorship, was organised by a team of Birmingham based architects and engineers, facilitating a live project for GCSE students aged between 13-15, to gain experience and insight into careers in design and construction through a project-based approach.

A weekend of workshops and talks were led by our team, which included a site visit to the project site. Through collaborative talks with local arts organisation Birmingham Hippodrome, we gained a location for our project pavilion on their main site for the ‘Birmingham Weekender Festival’, a city-wide arts event of music and dance.

The pavilion location was Eastside City Park in Birmingham City Centre, the site location was selected to be part of the site for ‘Clash of the Drums’ performance, a parade of music, light and fireworks billed to be the highlight of the festival weekend. This setting helped inform the project brief, as developed with the students, to respond to the public activity and performance.

The brief provided to the students was a fun, outdoor pavilion, to provide a setting for a flexible space at the festival for performance, film showings, food and drink, and also potential ticket office use. A key component of the deliverable was that the dimensions were a maximum of 6m long x 4m wide x 4m high, to co-ordinate with security management restrictions.

Nine teams of students worked collectively over two days, to produce models, drawings, views, and also prepared their presentations to esteemed judges from the IstructE, arup, Grimshaw Architects, and the RIBA. The winning design ‘Pavilion babs’, by Team KEHVIS, consisted of three girls from King Edward VI Handsworth. They presented a concept of a dome like structure with a number of openings for access and light, focusing on natural shapes and forms.

From the workshop weekend, IA worked closely with Arup, to develop a detail design evolution, balancing factors of time constraints, material supply and buildability, which resulted in a grid-shell form using CNC cut plywood sheet pieces and CNC technologies.

The pavilion structure was created with 126 individual CNC cut ply pieces, forming continuous ribs with opposing slots, equal to the rib thickness plus tolerance where they intersect. This ensured continuity of strength of each rub as well as connections between each piece. Tolerances of the chosen CNC method were also taken into consideration, as the design was built to a 0.5mm tolerance, ensuring a good fit of joins. Where whole ribs were larger than the sheets of plywood, they were cut and spliced together, using plywood spliced plates and bolts.

An algorithm was used to dissect the digital models developed, creating all of the required slot widths and rib pieces, which were then arranged flat onto a 2d drawing, and arranged onto cutting sheets of plywood sized 3050mmx1525mm, for off-site cnc fabrication. An economical approach was considered to reduce material waste.

Our talented team who all enjoy teaching, designing, building and learning, together constructed the pavilion on site over two days, in preparation for festival activities. The pavilion remained in-situ at the event, was then de-assembled, and is now a feature within a courtyard of the local ‘Custard Factory’, a large-scale district of creative businesses in Birmingham.


  • Completed: 2017
  • Floor area: 20m2
  • Sectors: Arts and culture, Education
  • Total cost: £5,000
  • Funding: 5000
  • Procurement: n/a
  • Address: Eastside City Park , Birmingham, United Kingdom

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