IBM Travelling Pavillion
In 1983, IBM devised a travelling exhibition to promote advances in computer technology for telecommunications. Reinforcing their message that workstations could be virtually located anywhere, this temporary structure was designed to be assembled, exhibit for a month, and then dismantled at each of its 20 European destinations including Lyon, London, Rome, Milan…
The pavilion is a transparent tunnel, sitting on a raised platform that houses its supporting services. It is 48m long, 12m wide and 6m high. In order to facilitate easy assembly, disassembly and transportation, the enclosure is made of modular, repetitive elements of wood and polycarbonate. These elements are connected together by carefully crafted aluminium joints to form the weathering envelope as well as its structure.
The tunnel vault is composed of 34 self-supporting segments, each of which contains a row of 12 polycarbonate pyramids. The pyramids sit on a pair of timber arches and are also connected at their apex by timber arches. Together, these arches and pyramids form a three-dimensional lattice truss, with the timber as the top and bottom elements, connected by the polycarbonate surfaces. In order to keep the arches to a suitable size, each one is composed of two sections pinned together at their apex. They are also pinned at their connection to the supporting base.
The polycarbonate is manufactured using thermoforming techniques. The timber is glulaminated beech – composed of thin timber laminations that are glued together to give structural uniformity. The timber connections are in cast aluminium.
The temperature and humidity inside the pavilion had to be carefully controlled in order to ensure the correct functioning of the sophisticated electronic equipment, as well as creating a comfortable environment for the user. All environmental services were housed in the base so that when erected, all that was required for a fully operational building was connection to an electrical power supply.
This travelling exhibition, which brought a vision of the future of technology from city to city, was seen by 1.5 million people between 1983 and 1986. The transparent pavilion, installed in green spaces in urban parks, was like a temporary winter garden full of high-tech tools and new information.
The pavilion has not been reassembled since it was permanently dismantled following the completion of the exhibition in 1986.
Client: IBM Europe
Renzo Piano Building Workshop, architects
Design team: S.Ishida (associate in charge), O.Di Blasi, F.Doria, G.Fascioli, J.B.Lacoudre,
N.Okabe (associate), P.Vincent, A.Traldi
Consultants: Ove Arup & Partners (P. Rice, T. Barker) (structural and mechanical engineering)
Contractor: Calabrese Engineering S.p.a.