Commissioned by a Tunis-based leading aluminum manufacturer for their participation in the 2022 Carthage Expo, the pavilion’s concept finds its roots in the infinite spectrum of metamorphoses of aluminum and celebrates it as a plural yet intriguing material. It is also a visit to the commissioner’s factory that helped explore an industrialization process where reflections and shapes unfold in motion, instantly inspiring a design approach that translates such a graceful potential and partly mimics the matter’s journey towards its perfection.
Office Name: ARK-architecture
Office Website: www.ark-architecture.tn
Firm Location: Tunis, Tunisia
Completion Year: 2022
Gross Built Area (m 2 / ft 2 ): 330m²
Project location: Tunis – Tunisia
Program: Pavillion / temporary Expo
Lead Architects: Bilel Khemakhem
Photo Credits: bilel khemakhem
Gravity960 is largely made of elements retrieved from a stockpile vowed to recycling found in the factory’s backyard. Freed from any walls or barriers, bathing in lightness, the entire volume puts visitors at the center stage of an intimate scenography, in gravitation.
Over 250sqm, a parametric aluminum wave unfolds to cover the entire pavilion. The wave is suspended to a support structure of 40 modules and shaped by 960, equally distant, units hanging still as if captured in freefall. Each unit is composed of a circular mirrored aluminum sheet cladded to a profile. The circular sheet has a diameter of 30cm and refers to aluminum billets and dies. The profile refers to the end of the extrusion process. Together, they simulate a portion of aluminum’s industrialization process and attest to the commissioner’s know-how and expertise.
The very essence of the task was to sculpt the void, yet the main challenge consisted in reaching a fine balance of researched heights and dimensions in line with the volume’s potential and the pavilion’s different spaces and functions. Obeying mathematical precision, profiles’ lengths vary from 40 cm to 3.5m and have different shapes and unique indentations. They keep their stories intact, without any polishing, and bear the marks of their imperfections and the fingerprints of those who patiently assembled the installation onsite as a tribute to devoted craftsmanship.
The ceiling system unreservedly reflects the blue light crosscutting the pavilion’s floor and subtly encrusted in exposed products, hence modeling a constellation gilded by the emblematic color of the manufacturer -that is their trademarked blue. The ceiling engages with visitors and all their colors in playful and unscripted ways. In return, and at the rhythm of their steps, visitors interact with every detail beyond playful reflections. In their wandering, a curious glance up unfolds the depths in motion of the ceiling, an optic illusion that can be renewed indefinitely. The rest of the pavilion is wrapped in anthracite grey to absorb superfluous interference with other light sources or reflections and to preserve visitors’ sensory comfort throughout the experience for a fully immersive experience.
In the openness of the main floor, each space functions autonomously while directly engaging with the whole. Alongside the main alley, a maze made of a newly introduced series of windows and doors invites an intimate interaction where touch is welcome. Circulation gets tighter inside the maze and exposed windows and doors stand as if afloat thanks to a self-supporting structure of reinforced profiles. The mezzanine, from which the view gets more dramatic, hosts the executive lounge that panoramically embraces the minutiae of the volume. In its minimalism, Gravity960 is a manifesto of the possible at an optimized cost. It equally translates the equation of the evolution of aluminum: a minimum of material for maximum efficiency.