London’s Serpentine Galleries have reopened their spaces to the public in May and on June11th , the Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace, the architectural studio directed by Sumayya Vally, opened its doors. It is the 20th pavilion of the famous gallery which, for this edition, extends out to the city with four installations placed in different neighbourhoods across London, recognisable as four fragments of the pavilion.
Sumayya Vally who, as per tradition when it comes to the pavilions is completing her first work in the UK, as well as being the youngest architect to be commissioned for this renowned programme.

The pavilion’s inauguration is a splendid sign of the post-Covid 19 reopening efforts, extending across the city through the four installations located in different neighbourhoods in London and recognisable as four fragments of the same pavilion. A happy ending, to a very challenging year. The inauguration was, in fact, originally set to take place on June 11, 2020, when the lockdown initiatives undertaken by the city in order to contain the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the full suspension of the Serpentine Pavilion programme and its postponement to 2021. Moreover, after a year marked by compliance with social distancing rules, the new Serpentine Pavilion extends across London to support and facilitate gatherings and participation in different locations of great importance, above all, for their diasporic and cross-cultural communities: those groups of individuals who, as a result of migratory processes have reconstructed themselves in contexts other than those of their origin. These neighbourhoods include Brixton, Hoxton, Tower Hamlets, Edgware Road, Barking and Dagenham, as well as Peckham.


The Pavilion designed by Counterspace pays tribute to these places, which in some cases still exist, while in others are no longer with us. Religious places like some of London’s first mosques: the Fazl Mosque and the East London Mosque. Places hosting cooperative bookshops such as Centerprise and Hackney. Entertainment and cultural venues like The Four Aces Club on Dalston Lane, The Mangrove restaurant and the Notting Hill Carnival. Four installations designed and created precisely to reinforce this theme and its connection with the city.
Four fragments of the Pavilion installed in 4 locations across the city, carefully selected to reflect this close bond: the headquarters of the first black publisher and bookseller in the UK Beacon Books in Finsbury Park; The Tabernacle multipurpose venue and community centre in Notting Hill; the Albany art centre in Deptford; and the new Becontree Forever Arts and Culture Hub at the Valence Library in Barking and Dagenham, which commemorates the centenary of the UK’s largest municipal residential complex. The installations are not an end unto themselves, but have been created specifically for the places where they have been installed and are used as display stands for books, seats, benches and more.

Offering a viable answer to the scarcity of informal gathering and interaction places, the pavilion presents itself as a new meeting place in London’s famous Kensington gardens, with its abstract form inspired by the superimposition and union of architectural elements on different scales borrowed from the city itself. The different textures and shades chosen for the pavilion, made of recycled materials such as steel, cork and wood covered with micro-cement, also take inspiration from the city of London and its rich architecture.

As per tradition, the Serpentine Pavilion will host the summer program of initiatives of the Serpentine Galleries which, for the first time, will also include a music programme entitled Listening to the City that once again aims to link the pavilion to various neighbourhoods across London and their sounds. A Scholarship and Grant Programme, Support Structures for Support Structures, has also been created to help sustain artists from different London communities.

Images courtesy of Serpentine Galleries, photo by Iwan Baan, George Darrell

Source: Floornature, Architecture and Surfaces

For several years, the construction sector has been facing a labour shortage, generating a growing interest in automation. The health crisis has only exacerbated the trend, prompting automation companies to turn their focus from car manufacturing to the construction industry, for which automation is expected to grow up to 30% within the next few years. The following explores present capabilities and future possibilities of automation within the construction process, its integration within the mainstream practice and the impact on design.

Facing a shortage of skilled labour, an increasing number of projects, and an imperative to reduce its environmental impact, the construction industry is looking towards automation to increase productivity, cost efficiency and minimise material waste. “Construction is where automotive was about 50 years ago in terms of the density of robots and automation. It’s coming from a lower base, but it is going to grow much faster,” says Sami Atiya, president of Robotics & Discrete Automation at ABB. A McKinsey Global Institute pre-pandemic study covering 54 countries and 78% of the global labour market states that 44% of work within the construction sector has the potential to be automated. However, the prospect is not a fully automated construction site but the use of human labour solely for essential tasks.


At the moment, automation is being researched and deployed along two distinct paths: automating specific tasks within traditional site operations and creating an entirely new construction process supported by new materials and technologies. Several years ago, SAM (the semi-automated mason) generated significant excitement, as the robot was capable of laying bricks at almost three times the speed of a human worker. A new bricklaying robot Hadrian X, developed by Australian firm Fastbrick Robotics has completed several residential pilot projects in Mexico and Australia and is heading towards mass production. Addressing the current construction framework, an engineering and architecture research team from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) created a high-rise façade operations robot, which can perform a wide range of operations from façade painting to repair works removing workers from dangerous heights.

Traditional construction process and materials limit the adoption of robotic technology to highly specific tasks. However, digital fabrication, whether it is robotic manipulation or additive manufacturing, holds significant potential for reshaping the construction process altogether, as showcased by the experimental pavilions designed over the years by the Institute for Computational Design (ICD) and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE), illustrating both material innovation and the possibilities of robotic fabrication.

Automation within the construction process is no longer a preoccupation at the fringes of architecture, as is shown by the collaboration announced last November between Foster + Partners and the robotics design company Boston Dynamics. As part of the Early Adopters program for Spot, the robot has been tested for data collection and progress monitoring on construction sites. Spot’s performance was undeniable, with the robot showing a much higher rate of spotting errors than manual monitoring, thus enhancing productivity and efficiency. The robot is also capable of checking as-built versus as-designed models, with significantly reduced scanning and post-processing times, which would free staff for other tasks. Foster+Partners involvement brought automation on the construction site in the realm of possibility, and it might not take long until Spot’s appearance at a building site “will seem as ordinary as the arrival of a bulldozer or a forklift do today”. The robot has been adopted by several construction companies around the world and employed for various tasks.

In 2018, Dubai announced that 25% of its new buildings will be 3D printed by 2025, with the term is now revised to 2030. At the time, Dubai already created the first fully functional and permanently occupied 3D printed office building, the Office of the Future by Killa Design and Gensler. Subsequently, in 2019 Dubai had another breakthrough with the largest 3D-printed building, whose construction required only three people on site. There is no certainty around the ambitious plan coming to fruition; nonetheless, local decision-makers are developing additive manufacturing building codes.

There is a consensus around the idea that automation will enable an era of increasingly bespoke design, as it would allow for precision and accuracy throughout construction processes, presenting significant time savings. For the most part, the geometric complexity of a component is of no relevance in numerous robotic construction processes and doesn’t impact the costs, thus facilitating complex shapes. Automation opens the possibility for investigating new aesthetics, reshaping both the design and the construction process.


Source: ArchDaily


The five-year research program considered the seismic design of corrugated metal decks, with and without concrete topping, as a diaphragm system that is an integral part of the steel structure.

Photo courtesy Canam, Vulcraft, Steel Deck Institute

Steel Diaphragm Innovation Initiative Improves Seismic Design Tools

Researchers pave the way for future explorations that could speed up construction of steel frames

In a few months, Northeastern University expects to make research history by testing the behavior, under seismic loads, of a full-scale, composite, concrete-filled steel-deck diaphragm system. The novel experiment culminates unprecedented collaborative research on the seismic performance of steel floor and roof diaphragms in steel structures. The five-year initiative already has aligned and improved design methods and relevant standards used throughout the U.S., not merely in high-seismic zones, according to those involved.

The program not only validates current design practices for different steel structures, it also promises to improve the seismic design and behavior of “bare” and concrete-topped decks under earthquake loads, says Ben Schafer, a professor of civil engineering at Johns Hopkins University and principal investigator for the nearly $2-million Steel Diaphragm Innovation Initiative. The design tools developed allow “more reliable designs” for seismic performance and offer slight efficiency gains that can result in the application of less concrete as a deck topping, Schafer says.

The findings also pave the way for future explorations that could speed design and onsite construction. These include the study of modular deck systems and bare metal floor decks that are free of concrete topping, says Schafer.

Known as corrugated metal decking, steel diaphragms are ubiquitous in steel frames. They are considered advantageous because they are relatively low weight, use recycled material and offer potential redundancies from a large number of connection points between the diaphragm and other structural elements, say the sponsors of the initiative, which include the American Iron & Steel Institute (AISI), the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), the Metal Building Manufacturers Association, the Steel Deck Institute, the Steel Joist Institute, the Cold-Formed Steel Research Consortium and structural consultant Walter P Moore.

The investigation has resulted in the adoption of new provisions in seismic codes and standards that will increase the already high level of seismic safety of steel buildings, according to AISI, which, along with the other sponsors, is trying to make steel structures more attractive to engineers.

“These efforts expanded the capabilities of structural engineers to successfully employ steel in seismic diaphragm systems in essentially any situation,” say the authors in a 101-page final report on the research, published in March by AISI and released last month.

Until the recent research, funded by $1.4 million from the sponsors and $540,000 from the National Science Foundation, data had not been compiled and research was largely focused on the strength of isolated systems instead of ductility or whole-building performance, according to participants.

The initiative involved myriad design simulations and physical testing. The work resulted in a better understanding of diaphragm-structure interaction. That in turn led to new design approaches and new 3D modeling tools, say the researchers.

Under the study, researchers considered steel diaphragms as a system that is an integral part of a building.

“The ductility in these systems can be quite good and helps to address any variability in forces that might occur due to the variability in earthquakes,” says Jerome Hajjar, a professor of civil engineering at Northeastern University and a co-principal investigator, with professors of civil engineering Matt Eatherton, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; and Sam Easterling, at Iowa State University. In total, there were 21 investigators involved in the research.

Unified Design Requirements

“The project unified design requirements, creating a cohesive basis” across the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Provisions and relevant standards from the American Society of Civil Engineers, AISC and AISI, says Charlie Carter, AISC’s president. The unified requirements also will render the next edition of the model International Building Code “similarly cohesive,” he adds.

Achieving corresponding changes in the standards required “extensive coordination” among the standards-writing committees, says John D. Hooper, director of earthquake engineering at Magnusson Klemencic Associates and an ASCE 7-22 committee member.

Specifically, there are changes to the design approach for steel floor and roof diaphragms in AISC 342, ASCE 7-22 and AISI 400. The changes include establishing special seismic detailing requirements to ensure ductility and deformation capacity in steel-deck diaphragms and establishing the diaphragm design force reduction factor, called Rs, for bare-steel deck diaphragms using special seismic detailing and concrete-filled steel-deck diaphragms.

“For the first time, engineers are able to reliably provide ductility and deformation capacity in steel-deck diaphragms,” says Hooper. This will be especially helpful in the design of rigid-wall, flexible-diaphragm structures where the ductility comes from the roof diaphragm, he adds.

For this, researchers expanded  building archetype designs. They performed thousands of nonlinear time-history analyses of 3D steel buildings and validated the alternative-diaphragm design procedures for concrete-filled steel decks and for bare steel decks in buckling restrained braced frames and concentric braced frames.

The program kicked off in 2015. The final report is available for free download on the AISI website, under “reports.”

To date, research has been conducted in the form of cantilever diaphragm tests, generally designed to identify the effect that one factor has on strength and behavior of the system. The Northeastern test system builds off the knowledge gained from these previous tests but advances beyond typical assumptions and necessary simplifications of cantilever diaphragm tests, says Hajjar.

The Northeastern, multi-bay test program is intended to document the inherent strength and ductility in typical composite diaphragms and provide a baseline test for future exploration of innovative diaphragm designs. The 28-ft by 20-ft specimen includes two chord members that span 28 ft and two collector members that span 20 ft. Findings will be appended to the final report.

To fill knowledge gaps, the five-year program focused on traditional floor systems. Time was limited for study of irregular situations, such as floor cutouts, irregular floor plans and eccentric architecture, which create unusual demands on the diaphragms.

Schafer hopes to study special cases in the future, along with bare decks and modular systems. For now, the focus is on educating practitioners about changes in the codes and standards so they can take advantage of the advances.

Source: Engineering News Record


Road building projects come and go. No one wants cranes and diggers lurking on our streets longer than necessary, with traffic diverted one way and the other. The trick is to get the job done and move on. But how do you rig up cheap, clean electricity to temporary construction sites? That sounds too hard. Just hire a dirty diesel generator and be done with it.

Not so fast, says a company that has literally rolled out a simple but very effective PV power plant supplying an infrastructure project in southwest Melbourne.

At Hoppers Crossing, where a level rail crossing on Old Geelong Road is being replaced with a traffic and pedestrian bridge, an 80kW system is powering eight site sheds with clean solar energy. Black Stump Technologies’ “mobile renewable generator” consists of two 20-foot shipping containers, each fitted with an array of 40 solar panels that can be rolled away and locked into the containers at day’s end so no-one’s tempted to mess about with them overnight.

“It doesn’t have to be rolled away and locked up … but it can be,” says Black Stump national accounts manager Tom Small. “In the bigger picture it’s designed to be easily moved from site to site.”

Solar may be growing fast across the suburbs of Australia but it is seldom possible to get close to the stuff, so generating solutions that can be rolled out like a picnic blanket at shoulder height will play a role in piquing the interest of the passing throng.

The plant will work at Hoppers Crossing for about a year and then move on to another role, just like any worker who follows work around town. Surplus energy from the plant is exported to the grid to earn the feed-in tariff.

A 20-year warranty on the Longi panels and 10-year warranty for the Fronius inverters assure Black Top’s containerised system a long working life. The castors the framework rolls about on are big enough to manage “reasonably level” ground, he says. A stricter requirement for deployment is that a site should have no shading – or as little as possible.

For Small the solution goes right to the heart of sustainability, where the whole point is “to stop disposing of things”.


First response

Black Stump started its journey about five years ago, directing its efforts first of all to the aid industry. When communities in far-flung parts of the Asia-Pacific are hit hard by natural disasters its vital to restore essential services as quickly as possible, but electricity may have relied on frail connections destroyed by the raging elements.

“Our containers were designed to be shipped out and deployed rapidly, within an hour or so of arrival,” Small says. The handy mobile plants have also been used in remote locations around Australia, some of them literally on the other side of the black stump.

As construction and infrastructure companies rein in emissions, Black Stump wants to remind them clean energy solutions can be delivered and plugged in as modular units. “We want to replace diesel in construction,” says Small, conceding that it will take a lot more available ground to host a roll-in, roll-out solar plant than a diesel generator. “We’re going to start where there is room … we need sites that are flat, have no shade and where there is some space.” He guesses about 30% of construction sites qualify.

Hoppers Crossing has seen 20 near misses since 2012 and holds up more than 20,000 vehicles per day. Across Melbourne, more than 46 level crossings have been removed, with more than 20 sites in construction and more in planning.

Available with batteries

Diesel is an unpleasant fuel source, responsible for producing particulate matter, nitrous oxide and carbon, but it’s convenient and predictable. A site that relied on Black Stump’s solar technology would most probably rely on diesel and the grid for balancing – especially in winter – but the company is ambitious to take business from diesel in the long term.

The containerised plants can also include a battery or diesel genset running on biodiesel or regular diesel. “We try to target about 80% renewable generation using a combination of solar and battery,” Small says. “As battery prices come down we are going to try to squeeze diesel out – but batteries are expensive.”

Source: EcoGeneration