Shellstar Pavilion

Shellstar is a lightweight temporary pavilion designed by American experimental architecture studio Matsys that maximises its spatial performance while minimising structure and material.

Commissioned for Detour, an art and design festival in Hong Kong, the pavilion is designed to be an iconic gathering place for the festival attendees.

Located on an empty lot within the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong, the design emerged out of a desire to create a spatial vortex whereby visitors would feel drawn into the pavilion’s centre and subsequently be drawn back out into the larger festival site.

Working fully within a parametric modeling environment, the design was quickly developed and iterated within six weeks of design, fabrication, and assembly. The design process can be broken down into three distinct processes that were enabled by advanced digital modeling techniques.

The form emerged out of a digital form-finding process based on the classic techniques developed by Antonio Guadi and Frei Otto among others. Using Grasshopper and the physics engine Kangaroo, the form self-organises into the catenary-like thrust surfaces that are aligned with the structural vectors and allow for minimal structural depths.

The structure is composed of nearly 1500 individual cells made of PVC, Coroplast and nylon cables that are all slightly non-planar. In reality, the cells must bend slightly to take on the global curvature of the form. However, the cells cannot be too non-planar as this would make it difficult to cut them from flat sheet material. Using a custom Python script, each cell is optimised so as to eliminate any interior seams and make them as planar as possible, greatly simplifying fabrication. 

Using more custom python scripts, each cell was unfolded flat and prepared for fabrication. The cell flanges and labels were automatically added and the cell orientation was analysed and then rotated to align the flutes of the Coroplast material with the principal bending direction of the surface. 


Project: Shellstar Pavillion

Location: Wan Chai, Hong Kong 

Architect: Matsys, Oakland, USA 

Technical info: PCV and Coreplast cells 

Picture credits: Dennis Lo