A group led by Sidney PhD student, Ana Gatóo, is featuring in the 2021 London Design Biennale. Her team have focused on global forestation, and a future of design that responds to the climate emergency.

The Centre for Natural Material Innovation at the University of Cambridge, PLP Architecture and Dukta have joined creative forces to develop a sustainable geometric timber structure that is exhibiting in this year’s London Design Biennale. Ana Gatóo, Sidney PhD student, is leading the group and is supported by a great team including Sidney Fellow and Director of Studies in Architecture, Dr Michael Ramage. Ana's project grew from her PhD research where she looks at affordable housing with timber and digital tools. She is focusing on flexible interiors with timber walls that can be folded and fabricated digitally to become cost effective.

The group’s offering is known as the ‘Unfolding’ which explores some of today’s most crucial issues related to architecture and design, including sustainability, biophilia, prefabrication, material wastage and shipping efficiency.

Unfolding takes the form of a light, flexible and transformable structural exploration that investigates the ways in which engineered timber can be used to build a more sustainable urban future. The material has excellent structural properties and is the only structural material that sequesters carbon in its cells while growing.

The pavilion is composed of folded timber components produced using kerfing, a cutting method that allows flat rigid panels to be turned into foldable or curved elements using select scoring and cutting patterns.

The design team performed extensive research into the fabrication process, considering the topology and geometry of kerf patterns, equipment use and types of wooden panels. Through this, the project represents a bold first step in the development of a unique fabrication system that comes with the benefit of being prefabricated, flat-packed and easily transportable, and can be used to create useful, sustainable and beautiful buildings and structures anywhere in the world with minimal on-site expertise required.

The engineered timber used in the project can revolutionise the construction industry and pave the way towards a bright future of sustainable developments. Unfolding marks an opportunity to grow our forests, to grow our building materials and to grow our cities sustainably to bring nature back to the places we live.

Discover more about ‘Unfolding’ on the London Design Biennale website.

The exhibition will run until the end of June, and four medals will be awarded to the best contributions from the participating countries, cities and territories.

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