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© Andrés Flajszer
© Andrés Flajszer
Design & Structure



Turó de Can Matas School Sant Cugat del Valles , Barcelona, Spain


July 2023

The Pentaura project is an innovative timber pavilion that serves as a climate shelter and playground designed for a public school. It showcases the use of segmented corrugated timber shells with digitally fabricated joints to create a versatile space for school activities.Conceived by Master’s students specializing in computational design, the project leverages digital form-finding techniques and computational tools to minimize the ecological footprint in architecture, while enhancing structural efficiency and ease of construction.

Text from CODA:

Innovative timber segmented shell to serve as climate shelter for school. Pentaura shell.

The UPCSchool specialized master’s program in computational design has successfully conceived and built a wooden climate shelter at the Turó de Can Mates public school in Sant Cugat del Vallés, demonstrating the ease of construction of segmented corrugated  timber shells. Under the direction of the CODA team of architects, the MPDA Master in Parametric Design in Architecture has carried out in this seventh edition the Pentaura project, which is within a broader research framework that studies the possibilities offered by computational design, simulation and digital manufacturing methods to minimize the ecological footprint in architecture.

Commissioned to provide a versatile space for various school activities, the design unfolds a branched vault achieved through a digital form-finding technique, reminiscent of Antoni Gaudi’s iconic inverted models, sheltering the inhabitants with a fresher air by means of a breathing skin.

Plan & Section © CODA & MPDA
Generative Adaptable Design Process © CODA & MPDA

Increased efficiency by the corrugation of its skin

Taking inspiration from creased seashells and leaves, and following a large engineering experience, the shell gets corrugated to increase its resistance to external forces. The corrugation increases drastically the second moment of inertia, changing the resistance of the shell to deflection, thus reducing the thickness of the timber boards, ultimately reducing the overall mass of the structure, despite the increase in surface area. In the project, the minimization of the mass is driven by the corrugation form and distribution amid the trade-off between surface area and structural performance.

Generation of the Geometry © CODA & MPDA
Structural Analysis © CODA & MPDA

Manufacturability by segmentation

The discretization of the shell into triangles plates offers practical benefits in terms of manufacturability and assembly. The discrete plywood components can be easily fabricated using standard 3-axis CNC machines, utilizing readily available plywood material, and producing very little waste. The size and weight of these plates also considers ease of transportation, allowing them to fit in common vehicles and be assembled by a single individual without external auxiliary means. On the other hand, the complexity of the doubly curved shell is finally absorbed by the triangulation and the simplicity of a low number of custom folded metal plates enabling rapid assembly.

The entire journey, from concept to reality, reflects the collaborative efforts of the MPDA Master in Parametric Design in Architecture students and faculty, who harnessed the power of computational design and digital fabrication tools. All design aspects were meticulously crafted within Rhinoceros Grasshopper, utilizing Kangaroo2 for the form-finding process and Karamba for the rigorous structural analysis. The MPDA program serves as a framework for harnessing computational design principles, resulting in the creation and optimization of lightweight timber structures with a minimal ecological footprint.

© Andrés Flajszer
© Andrés Flajszer

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Student Team: Xavier Almanza, Bindhuja Ameerpet, Imma Bigas, Cristian Cabezas, Miguel Cruz, André Almeida, Robert Fuse, Nerea Gardner Egusquizaga, Shylesh Kumar, Adriana Moreno, Anna Nasrallah, Nayib Perez, Vijithendra Thejaswi R V, Arshita Ravindranathan, Mariona Rodríguez Majoral, Abiodun Afolabi Shonibare

Faculty: Gerard Bertomeu, Dragos Naicu, Marc Serra, Alex Solà, Enrique Soriano, Pep Tornabell, with international experts guest faculty: Julian Lienhard, Almudena Majano, Antonio Lara.

Photo credit: Andrés Flajszer http://www.andresflajszer.com/


Read more: Pentaura — CODA (coda-office.com)