The Dark Crafts Pavilion

The Dark Crafts Pavilion


Iain [Max] Maxwell, Sam Tomkins, Ben Claase + Erin Hinton, University of Canberra

David Pigram, University of Technology Sydney

The Dark Crafts Pavilion was commissioned by Craft ACT for the 2019 Design Canberra Festival, It responded conceptually and technically to the festival’s celebration of the influential links between the Bauhaus and the development of city’s urban fabric in the 1960s. The pavilion is positioned within an existing water fountain located on the city’s most prominent plaza: reclaiming its publicness through the creation of a large urban room for hosting events throughout the festival. The design’s hexagon-dominant figuration reflects the persistent use of this geometric order within the city’s urban plan.
The project expands upon the traditions of German modernism - notably the furniture of Breuer et al. - through the skilled authorship of contemporary systems of (robotic) production towards new design expression. In coupling a computational approach to design with robotic fabrication techniques, the project establishes creative feedback relationships between material, tectonic strategy, tool design and fabrication protocol; a conceptual and technical bridge that sets the basis for a new definition
of craft and artisanal production and one that subverts the historical claim of craft as an exercise of workmanship related to the human hand.

The design features a 12-metre diameter reciprocal frame gridshell and leverages rotational symmetry to manage the logistics of non-standard part production. Thus, while the pavilion consists of nearly 500 linear metres of cardboard tubing for a total of 348 individual members, these can be traced to one of 58 unique yet repeatable (6-fold) types ranging from 800 - 2050 mm in length. Each part features 4 pin-connections where the translation and rotation of each pin is highly specific, zero tolerance and can only be assembled one-way. A two-step design-to-factory workflow was developed: The first stage consists of a generalised framework for the creation of reciprocal frame structures; The second, processes the resultant configuration for robotic fabrication. Each workflow was developed in the Python programming language within Rhinceros 3D’s Grasshopper (RGH) environment. The precise nature of the tectonic strategy outlined, allowed for a relatively fast and self-aligning spatial assembly without the need for propping or falsework. Critically, no construction drawings of the project were necessary. Instead, all information pertaining to part identification, location, orientation and adjacent member verification was visualised at the moment-of-production with the RGH and physically embedded (written) on the parts.

Design, fabrication and construction of the pavilion were undertaken by faculty and students in their first year of architecture at the University of Canberra.


Iain [Max] Maxwell_ is a registered Architect, design researcher and educator and co-director of the architecture practice supermanoeuvre. He holds a Masters in Architecture from the Architectural Association, School of Architecture in London.

Sam Tomkins_ an Industrial designer, Educator and researcher. He holds 1st Class Honours Degree in Industrial Design from the University of Canberra.

Ben Claase_ is an industrial designer with a background in advanced composite materials. He completed his Bachelor of Industrial Design at the University of Canberra.

Erin Hinton_ is a registered Architect, design researcher and educator. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Canberra.

David Pigram_ is a computational design and robotic fabrication researcher and co-director of the architecture practice supermanoeuvre.  He holds a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University in New York.

Image: The Dark Crafts Pavilion expresses a hexagon-dominant reciprocal frame structure. (Credit: Nicholas Borner @ Sellicks Consultants)