99 failures for one pavilion

The 99 Failures Pavilion realised by the University of Tokyo's Digital Fabrication Lab reveals highly immersive structural, material and spatially perceptual experiences.

The word is in romance with success ”, was once the start of a talk session about failures at Architectural Association (AA) between its director Brett Steele and  the American architect Mark Wigley.
Wether being or not aware of this affair, what many people precisely forget to mention about this romantic story is the fact that success is intimately entangled with the idea of failure. Almost in a masochistic fashion, successful architects often share their stories of the many non-built projects and submitted competitions in order to get a single of them realised. Orthodox education before the contemporary discourse on computational design has trained architects only to succeed but never to embrace the counter. The architectural cognitive process is already reversing this idea for the coming years: the more you fail the more you might succeed.
99 Failures
The University of Tokyo, Digital Fabrication Lab, 99 Failures Pavilion. Photo Hayato Wakabayashi
While there is little gap for failures in the final construction, there seems to be a vast field of possibilities during the process, when pursuing a synergy between materials and novel structures. This kind of approach is happening mainly at schools of architecture, and it’s not new to mention their obsession for manufacturing small scaled and non-programmatic architectures in format of pavilions.
99 Failures
The University of Tokyo, Digital Fabrication Lab, 99 Failures Pavilion. Photo Hayato Wakabayashi
Thus 99 Failures is the name of the third pavilion undertaken by Digital Fabrication Laboratory at The University of Tokyo in Japan, founded by initiative of Kengo Kuma and Yusuke Obuchi. For the later to fail is not necessarily something catastrophically wrong, and rather opens the possibility for new explorations. Buckminster Fuller already pointed out that in experimentation there are not failures, but only unexpected results. For Obuchi this project persuasively has surpassed the threshold of being solely a scaled‑up version of a desktop model to the exclusive quality of small scale architecture. If earlier studies of the Minimum Surface Pavilion (2011) and Circle Pack Pavilion (featured partly in Domusweb 19 of November, 2012) speculated on the possibility for exhibiting structural studies in rather sculptural mode, then 99 Failures Pavilion reveals highly immersive structural, material and spatially perceptual experiences.
99 Failures
The University of Tokyo, Digital Fabrication Lab, 99 Failures Pavilion. Photo Hayato Wakabayashi
The DNA of the pavilion is the Lab’s investigations of structural and material behaviours in tensegrity models. Tensile and self‑stressed structure studies can be dated back already to the 1940’s, originating from explorations on balancing tension and compression forces in sculptural objects. In the 1960’s Buckminster Fuller coined the concept of tensegrity as synergetic explorations in structure and geometrical forms. Within the context of digital advancements in the 21st Century, which radically expanded the investigations of topological surfaces and structures, the tensegrity studies of Digital Fabrication Lab are aimed at generating prototypical geometries to reconcile with the contemporary issue of limited resources and materials. In this sense, the pavilion has also been a conceptual and practical vehicle for generating series of challenging computational design questions instead of finding straight‑forward engineering solutions to some structural or material related problems.
99 Failures
The University of Tokyo, Digital Fabrication Lab, 99 Failures Pavilion. Photo Hayato Wakabayashi
Obuchi points out that studio projects can be limited in their level of complexity and especially in relation to the parameters and constraints of what computational should or could be dealing with in real construction. This kind of next-level engineering and architectural quality has been achieved through unprecedented collaboration between the Digital Fabrication Lab, structural engineers and construction related industries. One of the main collaborators, Obayashi Corporation, was invited to help choosing one of the studio tensegrity models for development into the real construction and further structural explorations. Digital Fabrication Lab’s course assistant Toshiktasu Kiuchi remarks that the final choice was related to the potential of the geometric form to be controlled and calibrated along the process of construction.
99 Failures
The University of Tokyo, Digital Fabrication Lab, 99 Failures Pavilion. Photo Hayato Wakabayashi
Japan is the country with the largest number of robotic arms being used in the industrial assembly lines, supported by the highly advanced studies in technologies, engineering and robotics. Beyond developing prototype architecture and material studies, another ambition of the Digital Fabrication Lab is to democratize the exclusive industrial use of robotics for the purposes of fabricating architectural components. As Yusuke Obuchi explains, at the moment architects are able to give very precise instructions of geometries of their designs, but construction to a great extent still relies on the traditional means of building.
99 Failures
The University of Tokyo, Digital Fabrication Lab, 99 Failures Pavilion. Photo Hayato Wakabayashi
While computational design came later in the Japanese architectural scene compared to other countries, it would be adventurous to foresee in detail which new directions it will undergo in the coming years. We might be already witnessing a very particular reconciliation between architects, building processes, techniques and knowledge. It is for sure that those who pursue these paths for innovation will continue risking and tasting the sweet flavour of failures.
The authors would like to express their sincere thanks to the director of the Digital Fabrication Lab, Yusuke Obuchi, course assistant Toshikatsu Kiuchi and Master Student-Architect Miguel Puig for providing the necessary materials and information through the interviews.  
99 Failures
The University of Tokyo, Digital Fabrication Lab, 99 Failures Pavilion. Photo Hayato Wakabayashi

99 Failures Pavilion
Project : The University of Tokyo, Digital Fabrication Lab Pavilion 2013
Design Team :
The University of Tokyo teaching staff : Yusuke Obuchi, Toshikatsu Kiuchi, So Sugita, Hironori Yoshida
The University of Tokyo students
: Christopher Sjorberg, Yeonsang Shin, Miguel Puig, Zhang Ye, Ana Luisa Soares, Ma Sushuang, Tong Shan, Andrea Trajkovska, Quangtuan Ta, Wei Wang, Anders Rod, Benjamin Berwick, Qiaomu Jin, Fawad Osman, Yanli Xiong, Andrea Bagniewski, Kevin Clement, Ornchuma Saraya, Minjie Xu
Obayashi Corporation : Tomoo Yamamoto, Kenichi Misu, Gendai Ono, Yasuo Ichii, Keisuke Fujiwara, Shunsuke Niwa, Tatsuji Kimura, Masaru Emura, Taiki Byakuno, Takahide Okamoto
Structural engineer : Jun Sato
Fabrication of components : Tsukasa Takenaka (AnS Studio)
Construction : Multibuilder
Fabrication : Togari Kogyo
Structure: Freeform Surface Tensegrity Structure
Materials :
Compressive components : stainless steel plates with 0.5 mm / 0.8 mm / 1.2 mm / 1.5 mm thickness
Tension cables : stainless steel cables in 3 mm diameter
Base ring : stainless steel pipe in 48mm diameter
Foundation : precast concrete blocks
Furniture : painted plywood
Weight : 1.5 t (upper structure in stainless steel), 1 t (concrete foundation)
Design Phase : October 2012 – March 2013
Design development, fabrication & construction : April – November 2013
Completion date : 24 November 2013

Latest on Architecture

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram