Pulp Pavilion represents the culmination of five years of experiments with material composites using reclaimed paper. The result was a gathering space that was a respite from the sun and frenetic energy of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in the California desert. It was an ideal place to view performances on two stages.
The paper used in the Pavilion was diverted from the waste stream and is cheaply available almost anywhere in the world. Unlike fiberglass or carbon fiber composites that are polymer based, the Pavilion contained no toxic materials; it could be recycled or composted after the two-week run of the festival.
Because this construction system has no known precedent, it was essential for an experimental testing program of the assembled composite elements to be completed in order to understand the limits of the material within a built structure. As such, simple beam and column prototypes were created in order to determine bending and compression strengths and stiffnesses of the material. In understanding these properties experimentally, a full finite element structural analysis model was created with the experimentally-determined mechanical properties, and the structure was then subjected to anticipated wind and human loading cases. By experimenting analytically with the geometry and thicknesses of the structure, we were able to determine acceptable thicknesses and geometry that could be used in the final construction. Several computational form-finding studies were also completed early in the design phase in order to determine minimal surfaces for the structure. By gathering these empirical results from small-scale experiments and extrapolating them into design criteria for the final form, we were able to predict the behavior of the structure under anticipated loads.
The Pavilion was an ideal shelter for the dry air, heat, and intense sunlight of the desert but these climatic factors also provided the ideal conditions for producing the structure enabling the pulp to dry very quickly and saving a significant amount of time compared to cooler, more humid climates.