Mind & Matter


Taking Shelter in a PETG Cocoon

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AIA Pavilion 2011. Image by Gernot Riether.


One of the experiential highlights from the AIA convention in New Orleans was Gernot Riether’s AIA Pavilion, a cocoonlike enclosure located within a courtyard adjacent to an Arthur Ross–owned gallery. Riether’s 194-square-foot folly makes use of 320 triangulated, thermoformed panels of PETG, and showcases the material’s capacity to transform from a transparent thin shell to an opalescent ribbed structure.

Celebrated as a captivating format for recycled or sugar-cane-derived polymer, it isn’t clear that the pavilion actually made use of either material—particularly at the low material price of $2,500. However, the structure suggests a provocative future use for bioplastic, which will be utilized more pervasively as oil prices rise. Most of all, it demonstrates that compelling ideas may have a large impact regardless of limitations in size or budget.



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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.