Coca-Cola’s futuristic pavilion at the London 2012 Olympic Park demonstrated how innovative structural engineering can have a key influence on the form of a building.
We worked with architects Asif Khan and Pernilla Ohrstedt on their pavilion design, a multi-sensory experience of architecture, music, technology and sport. The contest-winning design, known as the Coca-Cola Beatbox, was a truly interactive structure, based on a concept celebrating beat, rhythm and movement.
The pavilion’s exterior was formed by an array of tightly packed translucent pillows, finished in the famous brand colours, each measuring 5 m long. These pillows, formed by two layers of ETFE plastic attached to a rectangular steel frame and inflated, could be struck by visitors, causing sounds and light to be emitted. Recorded by DJ Mark Ronson from young athletes around the world, these effectively converted the building into a gigantic musical instrument.
The concept was simple: to create a structurally self-supporting exterior, rather than fixing cladding to a support structure. As such, apart from the pillows, there was virtually no other structure visible, resulting in an extremely lightweight and elegant design.
Our solution was known as a reciprocal structure; the pillows weaved together three-dimensionally to create a self-supporting structure, offering an efficient way to create a large structural form – in this case 8 m high and 24 m in diameter – whilst using relatively small components and minimal connections.
Our computational research team analysed and optimised the complex geometry of the façade. The process began with a more ordered pattern, which was then given the appearance of randomness by rotating some pillows and shifting others inwards or outwards and omitting pillows, made possible by the inherent structural redundancy of the system.
Easy to assemble, the structure was built as a series of prefabricated self-supporting sections, which were brought to site and then pieced together like a giant jigsaw.
Colourful pavilion for the 2012 Olympics with sound-emitting ETFE cladding
Pernilla & Asif