On Spain's Costa Brava, a Pavilion Rises

Cloud 9, an award-winning Barcelona-based firm known for its dynamic, cutting-edge architecture, has collaborated with ArtCenter’s Environmental Design Department to design and fabricate a work/play pavilion for a residential site located on Spain’s Costa Brava. Students from multiple disciplines were challenged to create an innovative structure that would draw inspiration from the local environment (a Mediterranean hillside amid tall pine trees), integrate new media, and become a case study for future projects.

Cloud 9 director Enric Ruiz-Geli, imbued by Buckminster Fuller’s interest in natural geometry and parametric design, gave students their brief in February 2013 and followed up with regular visits as the project progressed. Concepts were developed and prototyped at the College’s Hillside Campus in Pasadena before being implemented at the construction site in Spain.

The Transdisciplinary Studio became a living laboratory as the students experimented—on stovetops, in backyards and even on the beach—making windows out of pine resin, forming furniture from sand, and designing a “sound garden” that produces music triggered by the interaction between humans and plants.

The partially completed structure (featured on the cover of Dot magazine’s Summer 2013 print edition) began with a giant, igloo-shaped balloon inflated to support the web-like formwork of rugged fabric, into which a lightweight, high-strength concrete mix was injected. A circular plywood “plug” creates the standoff for the oblong window forms. When finished, the windows will frame textured, translucent panes made of amber-colored pine resin; and the plugs will be translated into furnishings made from a mixture of sand from the site and a bio-resin developed by the student team.

Cloud 9 was first introduced to ArtCenter by Graphic Design Chair Nik Hafermaas in 2012, and the project was coordinated by ArtCenter’s Educational Partnerships office and Environmental Design Chair David Mocarski, with lead faculty James Meraz, Jason Pilarski (MFA 97) and Kenneth Cameron.