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Ninja Star Shaped Pavilion, Tokyo


Architecture graduate students and design professionals at the Digital Fabrication Lab at the University of Tokyo collaborated on the design and construction of a unique and temporary pavilion. Constructed of prestressed cables and compressive steel components, the pavilion is built upon Buckminster Fuller’s principles of tensegrity. The pavilion was titled “Ninety-Nine Failures” after its experimental approach and adherence to the idea that repeated failures are the gateway to success.

The Digital Fabrication Lab is an initiative founded by architect Kengo Kuma and Yusuke Obuchi to explore architectural innovations through experimentation. The third non-programmatic pavilion undertaken by the initiative, Ninety-Nine Failures is a study of Buckminster Fuller’s concept oftensegrity, which defines a structure by its tension and compression forces rather than its structural elements.

In the design process, the designers repeatedly tested different structural models to find a geometry that could smoothly transition from a flat, two-dimensional surface into a sturdy 3D form. Digital mockups were created in Grasshopper and Kangaroo to simulate the tensegrity model and assembly process. Because even the slightest change in tension can cause collapse, the designers are built a physical 1:3 model from laser cut materials to study the behaviors of the tensegrity test the tension cables.

The prestressed cables pull together layers of thin stainless steel sheets welded together and inflated with hydraulic pressure to create the shape of inflated metal pillows. Each metal component was then carefully spaced apart to allow light to pass through and to minimize the impact of wind loads. After the materials were assembled on site, a crane pulled the structure upright into its final form.

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