Demountable Architecture

An interest in modular construction, the efficient use of materials and expression of engineering as an integral part of the architecture has always underscored our work.

These interests are at their most explicit where our clients have sought architecture that is demountable, transportable and low cost, and yet which make a statement about the values of their organisation.

The challenge is to generate a clear and elegant architecture from the demanding technical and cost constraints that are particular to this building typology. There is no place for decoration or artifice in these structures. They need to be simple and direct, rigorous and logical and, as experience has shown us, capable of becoming permanent, rather than temporary, additions to the landscape.

The National Trust Pavilion Concept

The Pavilion Concept, a project for the National Trust, developed a flexible building system that could be used as a standard product across their estate, often in extremely sensitive locations, to improve visitor facilities through the provision of new ticket offices, visitor receptions, cafes, retail outlets etc.

The National Trust Pavilion Concept – Demountable, expandable and economical
Prefabricating the oak frame in the workshop
An adjustable foundation detail enables placement on a variety of sites
Prototype single pavilion module on site
Corner detail of the prototype pavilion module

The building system is fabricated entirely from sustainably sourced timber in standardized structural frames, which are bolted together and covered with insulated and weather resistant cladding, or left open and covered to form shaded seating areas.

Refined objects in space – The sculpture of Donald Judd

Positioning and siting the building is always the key, whether placed adjacent to precious buildings or within open landscapes. This concept owes something to the work of Donald Judd.

Garsington Opera Pavilion – A pop-up Opera House

The Pavilion for Garsington Opera was a very different brief. Garsington Opera is a summer opera festival that operates in the English Country House tradition. Forced to move from their eponymous home, they secured a location for a temporary building on the Wormsley Estate, home of the Getty family, an extremely sensitive site in the Chiltern Hills just west of London.

Garsington Opera Pavilion – An exposed steel frame to facilitate annual erection and disassembly, fully galvanised to avoid any long term maintenance requirements

The brief was to design and build a 600 seat opera house, with high quality acoustics, that could be erected and dismantled annually for the 14 week opera programme. The budget was £900/ Sq. m and the programme from the commencement of design to opening night was 11 months.

Universal bolt connection (folded version) – A standardised bolted connection detail used throughout the steel framework with split pin fastening to allow rapid erection and dismantling
Universal bolted connection (in-line version) – Used for main steel triangulated roof trusses, which are made in three modular sections to facilitate transportation

Harnessing expertise from the rock festival industry and specialist steelwork fabricators, a design for a simple modular exposed steel structure was developed. Structural connections too are exposed and utilise split pin technology for rapid and simple erection and dismantling.

Pre-fabricating the pavilion’s curved fabric walls, precisely formed to provide reflections of the sound within the pavilion for acoustic control. They are shaped rather like large windsurfer sails and feature a low cost clear fabric skin

Wall and roof units are modular, comprising prefabricated stressed skin or timber panels. The basic building module related to standard components found in stage flooring and theatre systems which makes for accurate and co ordinated construction.

The exposed skeletal nature of the structure is very much in the language of building as stage set, which indeed it is.

On the eve of dismantling following a stunningly successful first season, the client decided to explore the possibility of leaving the building in place through the following winter. Having secured agreement with the landlord and the local planning authority, small modifications were made to the structure to address issues such as winter wind and snow loading and the building remained.

Cadogan Cafe competition entry – An entirely prefabricated building

Perhaps the most extreme example of our work in this field is the design for the new Cadogan Café Pavilion in Duke of Yorks Square, London. Conceived as an elevated building above the piazza, the structure could be completely pre assembled off site, delivered to site in its entirety in one piece which could be located onto the pre prepared vertical core over the space of a weekend.

Cadogan Cafe competition entry – An architecture of modular pre-fabricated components

This was particularly important as the site is extremely busy and congested and the client wished to minimize the disruption to the surrounding tenants and residents. Taking it away later would be the simple reversal of this process.

Cadogan Cafe competition entry – A pre-fabricated building delivered to a sensitive site