Pavilion of Knowledge Graphic Skin

Universal Code

P-06 Atelier creates a shimmery acoustical skin for a new multiuse foyer at Lisbon’s Pavilion of Knowledge.

The Pavilion of Knowledge of the Seas was one of the most emblematic exhibits during the ocean-themed 1998 Lisbon World Exposition. In 1999, Ciencia Viva (“Living Science”) moved its headquarters into the building and it became a permanent interactive science and technology museum called, more simply, the Pavilion of Knowledge (Pavilhão do Conhecimento).

Designed to appeal to kids of all ages, the museum offers exhibits on such topics as forensic science and organizes workshops and public debates. According to Pavilion of Knowledge President Rosalia Vargas, “All of the exhibits are interactive and the only thing that is forbidden is to NOT try and experiment.”

But after more than a decade in business, the museum needed to expand its physical space and freshen up its look.

“It needed a visual intervention,” Vargas explains. “The need for a bigger and better-equipped auditorium for public and corporate events, a laboratory, a cafeteria, meeting rooms, an elementary school, increased office space, and an innovative multiuse foyer were strong roots for a creative renovation.”

JLCG Arquitectos (Lisbon), which designed the original Pavilion in 1998, began work on design of the expansion—to 26,000 sq. ft.—in 2009. And JLCG tapped P-06 Atelier to overhaul the wayfinding and environmental design program and develop a “meaningful texture” for the walls of the museum’s multipurpose foyer.

Inspiration

The client’s directive to P-06 was simple: create an environmental skin that is functional, acoustical, and inspirational.

The visual drama begins as visitors enter the museum through a long external ramp leading to the ticket office, which is flooded with natural light and color. Then they enter a dark corridor, where black walls are used to display mathematical imagery. Finally, visitors receive an explosion of light and graphics in the foyer.

Inspired by the exchange of information that is core to the museum’s mission, P-06 adopted the universal computer language of ASCII codes, creating a 20- by 230-ft., floor-to-ceiling graphic skin perforated by cut-out ASCII symbols. The scrim provides visual interest, allows sneak peeks into the spaces behind the walls—including offices, laboratories, meeting rooms, and digital media rooms—and meets sound requirements.

“ASCII is a code for information exchange, and a museum is also a place for information exchange,” explains Nuno Gusmão, principal of P-06. “The overall aesthetic, colors, and light were intended to be calm enough to frame the ‘embroidered wall,’ yet strong enough to stand up to other elements that are competing with it.”

Gusmão refers to the walls as an “acoustic skin” because the first layer is perforated, allowing sound to enter and be partially absorbed by the Climaver acoustic panels inside. Made from fire-safe rigid mineral wool board and faced on both sides with reflective aluminum surfacing, Climaver panels offer excellent thermal and acoustic performance. P-06 carefully calibrated the volume of openings in the wall—more than 60 percent—to control the levels of sound and natural lighting that would enter the space.

P-06 also designed the lighting scheme so that all the illumination comes from within and through the wall. Three-ft.-long white LED strips are affixed to the panels laterally to ensure even light distribution and minimize future maintenance and cost issues.

Fabrication

According to Nuno Moreno of ACF, which fabricated the massive wall, project installation brought its own set of challenges. Fastening the wall into place required several rounds of prototypes before reaching a workable solution. To allow easy panel placement and removal, ACF attached the panels to the wood structure with screws.

To create a system of reflection, the fabricator installed a mirrored ceiling made of Barrisol, a tensile plastic with an inner metal structure that was stretched on-site using heat. The 3,000 linear feet of LEDs shower light directly onto the reflective Climaver panels in the wall, which have a silver mirrored finish. The overall effect is of shimmering white walls that appear to double in height when reflected in the ceiling.

The ASCII characters were computer-generated, then CNC-cut from the MDF panels. After cutting, the panels were lacquered and then identified by wall and arrow to ensure ease of assembly on site.

Validation

The finished foyer has definitely gotten the “wow” response from museum visitors that Gusmão sought. It is even being used as a backdrop for a local television program.

According to Vargas, the new environmental skin respects the building’s minimalist design and architectural tradition, but gives it a totally revamped look that balances space, color, and form. “The visitor enters the foyer after going through a dark corridor that is long enough to perceive the natural light at the end of the tunnel. Then the design feeds the visitor with the key characteristic of the scientific process: curiosity, a desire to know more,” Vargas says. “The final design could not be more appropriate, as it creates motion and emotion in every visitor and is a key ingredient for an unforgettable experience.”

--By Jenny Reising, segdDESIGN No. 33, 2011

Jury comments


“This project makes beauty from simple information. The multi-purpose room is expressive and yet seemingly calm; the graphics are playful and not overpowering. The surrounding skin is translucent, all making for a unique experience.”

“A most appropriate solution. Powerful use of symbology, light, and space. Makes visitors feel as if they are in The Matrix.”

PAVILION OF KNOWLEDGE GRAPHIC SKIN

Client:  Pavilion of Knowledge (Ciência viva)
 
Location:  Lisbon, Portugal
 
Design: P-06 Atelier, JLCG Arquitectos
 
Design Team:  Nuno Gusmão (principal/creative director, P-06 Atelier); João Luís Carrilho da Graça (principal in charge, JLCG Architects); Giuseppe Greco, Vera Sacchetti (designers, P-06 Atelier), Pedro Abreu (architect, JLCG Architects)
 
Fabrication:  ACF (construction, installation, and lighting), Demetro a Metro (signage system, vinyl film)
 
Photos:  Ricardo Gonçalves


Jury comments


“This project makes beauty from simple information. The multi-purpose room is expressive and yet seemingly calm; the graphics are playful and not overpowering. The surrounding skin is translucent, all making for a unique experience.”

“A most appropriate solution. Powerful use of symbology, light, and space. Makes visitors feel as if they are in The Matrix.”
 

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