Kendall McCaugherty © Hall+Merrick Photographers

Timber beams were woven ‘like threads in fabric’ for the SPLAM pavilion, which serves as an open-air learning lab at a Chicago school.

The structure is the result of an ongoing collaboration between architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and the University of Michigan Taubman College, and shows a novel approach to building with timber. The pavilion is more lightweight than traditional building framing methods, and uses almost half as much material as a cross-laminated timber panel.

SPLAM Pavilion was built robotically using timber

According to SOM Design Partner Scott Duncan, the pavilion was made by ‘weaving together timber beams like threads in fabric” – which means smaller pieces of wood can be used, and taken from rapidly renewable forests or even salvaged from existing dismantled buildings.

Robotic fabrication also played a key role, allowing the pavilion to be put together as a kit of parts delivered to the site. While it was publicly unveiled as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennale, SPLAM will remain a permanent fixture at EPIC Academy’s South Shore campus, where it will host outdoor classes and events. This year’s bumper architecture festival continues until 18 December 2021.

See more visual highlights from the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennale below.

Englewood’s Commons at the Chicago Architecture Biennale
Englewood’s Commons by Atelier Bow-Wow (Tokyo, Japan) – Momoyo Kaijima and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, organized in partnership with the Overton Incubator and Creative Grounds for the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photography: Nathan Keay
Central Park Theater by Manuel Herz
Central Park Theater by Manuel Herz (Basel, Switzerland), organized in partnership with Central Park Theater Restoration Committee for the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photography: Nathan Keay
Cover the Grid by Outpost Office (Columbus, OH), organised in coordination with Westside Association for Community Action (WACA), Open Architecture Chicago, and Freedom House for the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photography: Dennis Fisher
'River frames' are wire-mesh seating pavilions shaped like rudimentary huts
River Frames by PORT – Andrew Moddrell and Christopher Marcinkoski (Chicago, IL), organized in partnership with Lendlease for the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photography: Nathan Keay
The colourful Grids + Griots installation by Sekou Cooke
Grids + Griots by Sekou Cooke STUDIO (Charlotte, NC) – Sekou Cooke, organised in coordination and in partnership with YMEN for the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photography: Nathan Keay
Block Party - a colourful take on playground architecture combines mail box shaped structures, rectangular volumes and ladders
Block Party by Studio Barnes (Miami, FL), in collaboration with Shawhin Roudbari (Boulder, CO) and MAS Context (Chicago, IL), organized in coordination with Westside Association for Community Action (WACA), Open Architecture Chicago, and Freedom House for the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photography: Nathan Keay
The Garden Table – a terrazo and concrete installation that uses arches and voids to create a furniture frame
The Garden Table by Studio Ossidiana – Alessandra Covini (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) and Giovanni Bellotti (Venice, Italy), organized in coordination El Paseo Community Garden and NeighborSpace for the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photography: Nathan Keay

Roksanda’s choreographed SS22 show turned the Serpentine Pavilion into a stage

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