Darwin Bucky is a black box that can be used as an exhibition gallery, a town hall, an expo centre, a performance arena, or even a bar or a nightclub. It is designed to be placed in public gardens, exhibition grounds, or even in a city centre. The city of Ahmedabad was chosen as the cultural context, with similar performance theatres scattered around the city. A 12-meter-diameter prototype was engaged through multiple cultural events to investigate user demand for an architectural product occupied as a functional black box theatre and an exhibition gallery with a maximum occupancy of 100 people.
Concept and Form
We are temporary visitors to this planet. It is important that we don’t leave any footprints that impact our future generations. Therefore, we must cohabit with nature and not inhabit it. Permanently impermanent buildings are the future.
The inspiration for Darwin Bucky, one of the products, was drawn from Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic exoskeletal architectural principles. While not strictly a geodesic structure but rather a parametric one, Bucky adheres to the concept of triangulation to optimize material strength. The aim was to craft a lightweight parametric structure employing computer algorithms in a city that houses the legacy of Dr. Fuller’s dome constructed in 1962. Ahmedabad, known for its iconic architectural works by Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, provided the ideal backdrop. The resulting black box space, known as Bucky Gallery and Cafe, now serves as a hub for various cultural events.
Bucky aims to strike a balance between materiality and technological advancements in the field of design and engage the craft knowledge of metal as a material. The design process involves highly efficient parametric models which allow customization of various variables to achieve the specified volume. The computational model can adapt to the base diameter and dynamic heights to achieve material efficiency through optimized tessellation.
Materials and Assembly
Darwin Bucky is designed as a prefabricated kit of parts that can be dry-assembled on-site and disassembled when required. It is made of legacy materials like steel, wood, aluminium, and glass, and the durability and cost of Bucky is comparable to that of a conventional building. It does not require a plinth or a foundation to build on, nor requires heavy equipment for transportation and erection. These unique factors make the Darwin product ideal for locations where road access is difficult, electricity is scarce and excavation is undesirable. The form’s ideation is guided by its structural performance. The aesthetics are thus a derivative of a performative design approach. Darwin Bucky is designed to encapsulate a space with half the material required by conventional structures, thus optimizing the use of steel to achieve material efficiency. Lightweight insulated modular panels are prefabricated and flat-packed for efficient transportation. In addition to skeletal stability, the conical shape and triangulated planes on the fascia respond well to the desired acoustics.
The metal structure used in Bucky is fully recyclable, offering a sustainable avenue for its components. Damaged panels, scrap metal, and excess material can be efficiently recycled to create new metal products. The application of recycled steel substantially reduces energy consumption compared to new metal production. This means that the bent sheets forming Bucky can be repurposed effectively, along with the insulation materials. Bucky’s innovative tectonics allow it to encapsulate a volume using half the materials typically required for conventional structures. Despite its durability equivalent to regular buildings, Bucky doesn’t necessitate a foundation, heavy transportation equipment, or cranes for assembly. It can be dismantled without a trace, leaving no lasting environmental footprint.
The unique aesthetic language is achieved with an intention of structural honesty. The spacious volume of 520 m3 is achieved through a unique shell structure that is assembled on-site. A flat-pack system of 1 mm-thick folded metal insulated panels can be transported in a shipping container. Ridges mapped throughout the form anchor the structure to the base pedestal. The tectonics allow for an open floor plan of 116 m2 while the dynamic silhouette of the space breaks monotony. This further contributes to a unique spatial experience for its occupants. The ridges of the structure are designed for load distribution, electrical conduits, and ambient lighting, with unique joinery for waterproofing. The doorway is placed at the highest point on the intermediate ridge, extending outwards to form a threshold, and the brick base binds the staggering edge and compliments the stark nature of the metal structure. Windows are provided on the bottom half of the form for air circulation and a unique window panel is designed to pivot along its central axis, aligning seamlessly with the tessellated structure.
To support a multi-functional space, Darwin Bucky is accompanied by an in-built lighting system, audio-visual set-up, exhibition framework, and air-conditioning system. All services are integrated to develop a unique structure that is adaptive to any climatic condition.
Darwin Bucky redefines the practice of architecture as a product. It enables the investor to capitalize on today’s expensive real estate by organizing a variety of events at the same space or reusing the same enclosure at multiple locations. The system’s adaptability allows the designer to develop multiple iterations by adjusting the size of 12 meters or 18 meters and form a single unit or multiple interconnected units.
During the process of constructing this unusual form, fabricators and installers acquired new skills and expanded their expertise. Furthermore, while using Darwin, an artist can create a variety of configurations of the display, stage and audience interactions and let the audience experience a new sight in every visit from this versatile space. The project thus becomes a positive activity generator where the community can come together, interact and revive the connection lost during the pandemic.
Although a diverse team of amalgamated designers, digital fabricators and local craftsmen brought the project together, it became truly interactive when artists painted “Gond”, a traditional painting technique from a remote village in India, on the outer surface with mythological characters as a commentary on today’s society.
Gross Built Area: 116 m2
Location: Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Architect: andblack design studio
Typology: Cultural Architecture—Gallery and Performance
Photography by: Vinay Panjwani
Structural Consultant: Schafbock design + workshop
Lighting and Interior Design: Abhay Mangaldas