2014 Recipient | AIA Small Project Awards

Page Tools

Pure Tension Pavilion | Notes of Interest

The Pure Tension Pavilion is a portable, solar-powered tensile membrane structure commissioned by Volvo Car Italia for the new Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid electric car which not only charges the car but also flat-packs to fit in the trunk of the car and assembles in less than one hour.

It is an experimental structure that, similar to a concept car, is a working prototype that speculates on the future of personal mobility and alternative energy sources while also exploring digital design methodologies and innovative structural solutions.

The pavilion is an expression of the tensioned equilibrium between its elastic membrane skin and rigid perimeter frame. The entire pavilion collapses neatly into two 65”x15” x15” ‘B-cases’ and weighs 150lbs in total and can be assembled and taken down in just under an hour by a team of two to three people.

The pavilion can recharge a fully depleted car in about 12 hours in optimum sun conditions. 252 lightweight flexible photovoltaic panels are embedded within an applied graphic pattern of vinyl tiles along the mesh. The PV pattern is the result of intensive solar incidence analysis on the structure that found the average annual solar incidence of the skin for 360 degrees of orientation and mapped PV locations to the areas of greatest average annual solar incidence.

Additional Credits

  • Structural Engineer: Greg Otto, Buro Happold
  • Fabricator: Jason Gilette, Fabric Images
  • Photo Credit: © Fabric Images / © Volvo Italy
  • Renderings Credit: ©Burro Happold / © SDA

Pure Tension Pavilion

  • Architect: Alvin Huang, AIA 
  • Firm: Synthesis Design + Architecture
  • Location: Milan, Italy

Jury Comments

Illustrates what happens when art is considered an equal player with science in the integration of tomorrow’s technology into everyday life. Brings provocative design to two otherwise humble purposes—sheltering a parked car and generating solar power to charge it. The design for a minimal pavilion that transforms from flat-pack storage to a vibrant energy-producing charging station. The design is both speculative and innovative; the architect’s ability to integrate digital design strategies, advanced materials, and temporary strategies sets this project apart.

2014 AIA Small Project Awards Jury

  • Linda Reeder, AIA, Chair
  • Linda Reeder Architecture
  • New Haven, Connecticut
  • Deb Silber
  • Fine Homebuilding Magazine
  • Newtown, Connecticut
  • Rene Gonzalez, AIA
  • Rene Gonzalez Architect
  • Miami, Florida
  • Lisa Tilder, AIA
  • Ohio State University
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Craig Scott, AIA
  • IwamotoScott Architecture
  • San Francisco, California

Footer Navigation

Copyright & Privacy

  • © The American Institute of Architects
  • Privacy