architecture : urban : visual culture

Allwater Pavilion - when Bricks are Drops

Allwater Pavilion is an experimental building, which was built to explore the potential and importance of ‘Water House’ on architecture and sustainable design. ‘Water House’ building is a hybrid construction system, in which water is contained in an (opaque/transparent) solid core, the fluid parts are essential constituents of the structure, and water volumes are connected in the whole building to form a united fluid mass.

Allwater Pavilion marks an important stage of 10year-long research. The inventor of the system, Matyas Gutai started working on ‘Water House’ at The University of Tokyo in the laboratory of Professor Kazuhiko Namba. Matyas patented the research after he finished his PhD in 2010. It took three more years to build the pavilion. At the last stage, the research was also supported by Budapest University of Technology and Economics ( by Professors Jeno Kontra and Janos Varfalvi), Guardian (glass materials), Jüllich Glas (glass manufacturing), Schal-Tech (glass façade) and Knauf (insulation). Matyas currently continues ‘Water House’ research at The University of Tokyo in the laboratory of Professor Kengo Kuma as a post-doctorate researcher. There he is working on a book, ‘Trans-structure’, which focuses on the emergent design paradigm of responsive-able structural systems. The book will be published by Actar Publishers this year.

Naturally there have been previous attempts to utilize water as a building material. Nicholas Grimshaw designed a pavilion for Seville Expo in 1992 with constant water flow on the outside surface of the south glass façade, and also added water tanks to the perimeter wall. Kengo Kuma designed Water Branch project with plastic-water bricks for disaster areas. The plastic elements can be used to transport water and food to the site, and after that the bricks can also be utilized for construction of temporary shelters. Paris's Centre Pompidou and EMPAC (in Troy, New York) both introduce fluid infill in steel structural members to increase fire resistance, and the latter also uses the fluid as a heating and cooling medium.
In the case of ‘Water House’ however, the fluid volumes are contained and visible in a permanent structure, and by joining all panels, the whole fluid volume acts as a single mass, similar to the Earth, where Mass (soil), Insulation (air) and Distribution (water) cooperates to achieve stable microclimate. The only difference is, that what would take a year on Earth needs seconds in a building.

‘Water House’ works in a different way than solid architecture. Conventional buildings for instance try to close heat out during summer. Allwater Pavilion welcomes it and stores it for later use, since the whole building is also a heat collector. Building elements are mono-functional since the modern age (each constituent serves only one purpose), but Allwater Panels are multifunctional: heater, cooler, heat collector, distributor, etc. Solid energy-efficient buildings always limit the amount of transparent surfaces (because their impact on energy consumption and thermal comfort), but ‘Water House’ has no such limitation, because heat mass incorporates glass surfaces, which also increases the building’s heat collection. Conventional buildings are light or heavy, but ‘Water House’ is both, light during construction and heavy in operation, since water is available locally and filled in the last stages of the building process. The most significant difference however is the inherent embedded responsiveness of the water structure. Conventional structural design aims for stability - in both the sense of thermal comfort and structure - through strength, that is through more material. ‘Water House’ achieves this through resilience and constant adaptation. This capacity provides an energy-efficient solution for an ideal microclimate, in which surfaces and air both are constantly kept at an ideal temperature, for best possible thermal comfort. Finally, Allwater Pavilion presents us the qualities of ‘fluid space’, in which even transparency becomes relative to the observer's actual position and external climatic conditions, and ‘Performative transparency’ is resulted by the properties of water and the effects of water flow.

Stability is essential for architecture in both the sense of structure and energy. Solid building conceives stability as a product and consequently the design strategy is defined by strength and predetermined states of structure. Hybrid buildings are however based on ceaseless transition and adaptation, which is allowed by the ‘in-made smartness’ of the material. This quality and structural behaviour allows us to rethink sustainable construction and can lead to a new paradigm in architecture, which gives us the opportunity to transcend the limitations of sustainability as sources of inspiration.

 

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