Serpentine Pavilion 2013 by Sou Fujimoto; Photograph by Jim Stephenson
Serpentine Pavilion 2013 designed by Sou Fujimoto; Image 2013 Iwan Baan and Sou Fujimoto Architects
Serpentine Pavilion 2013 designed by Sou Fujimoto; Photograph by Iwan Baan

AECOM helped deliver Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto’s Serpentine Pavilion in 2013. Known for his inspired organic designs, the majority of which are in Japan, Fujimoto’s work occupies a contemplative – sometimes playful, always aesthetically pleasing – space between the natural and the man-made.

For the Serpentine Pavilion, Fujimoto created a latticed 3D structure comprising a series of interlocking cubes made from lightweight 20mm steel tubular poles: thousands upon thousands of them.

A typical building might have between 1-2,000 such steel supports, and it’s estimated that the Eiffel Tower has just over 18,000 steel struts, but the pavilion has over 26,000 – each one working hard to lend form and strength. The supports offer up a series of levels that serve as informal seating areas and a main function area, creating an inviting social space that yearns to be explored. It’s the most beautiful and intricate Jungle Gym the world has ever seen.

For AECOM’s designers, this boundary-pushing structure was one of their greatest challenges comprising a mind-bending puzzle of cubes and rods created within an extremely short design time. Pulling this off with enough time for fabrication and construction required innovative use of bespoke parametric geometry generation scripts and optimisation tools developed for the 2016 Rio Games.