MARS Pavilion


Form Found Design

MARS Pavilion

Palm Springs

The MARS Pavilion is the first robotically built concrete structure in southern California and explores a construction methodology in which humans and machines collaborate. The precision of ABB robots and the freedom of fabric were coupled to achieve an organic geometry and adjustable concrete mold. Designed by Form Found Design in collaboration with Walter P Moore, this pavilion is derived from a catenary structure using concrete in its most natural state: compression.

Following years of research, the pavilion awed onlookers in March 2017 at the Amazon MARS Conference (Machine learning, Automation, Robotics, Space exploration) in Palm Springs — an invite-only robotics conference organized by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and similar to a private TED Conference. The Pavilion and a video of the design process is on exhibit at the A+D Architecture and Design Museum in the Los Angeles Arts District (through October 7, 2017).

The design is based on a catenary chain model used in physics and geometry in which the catenary is the curve that a chain or cable assumes under its own weight when supported on both ends. However in this design, the geometry is inverted so that the chain "hangs" upwards, harkening back to the world-renowned Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí's use of inverting parabolic, hyperbolic, and catenary masonry forms in many of his famous structures, notably the Sagrada Familia.

Walter P Moore went beyond existing building code and design guides for the MARS Pavilion, as none were able to address the needs of this unique structure. Given that concrete is weak in tension but strong in compression, the choice to invert the catenary curve was integral to achieving the digital “chain model.” The inversion also resulted in minimum tensile forces due to flexure.

Helix Steel Micro Rebar, a steel fiber material, provides the necessary flexible strength to support the structure while a uniform steel connection detail was used for consistent assembly. The micro rebar was used in conjunction with CTS Rapid Set Cement. Both Helix Steel and CTS generously sponsored the exhibit at the A+D Architecture and Design Museum.