Casa Azul

Casa Azul

Casa Azul is a multi-functional pavilion designed for sustainable redeployment at short-term events designed by AIRLab @ SUTD. The pavilion was designed for disassembly, as part of an ongoing research on the circular economy of building components in Singapore. The research explores the feasibility of using good quality second-hand building components to meet the demand for residential construction in impoverished parts of Asia.

Casa Azul is a testbed of this research. Adopting the function of a travelling pavilion, it tests the quality, aesthetics and methods of utilizing residential windows salvaged from public housing in Singapore. The priorities informing Casa Azul’s design are thus ordered: (1) versatility of the structure to accommodate variable sizes of salvaged windows, (2) installation without damaging salvaged material or new material, (3) modularity for simplified assembly and transport, and (4) design with final disassembly in mind.

Casa Azul uniquely straddles several dichotomies – temporary and permanent, old and new. By casually adopting a diversity of identities and programs, Casa Azul demolishes the stereotype that reclaimed building components are condemned to obsolescence.

Salvaged Building Components
Over 100 salvaged components from demolition sites in Singapore were inventoried in a digital database and physically tagged with a unique QR code label. From a study of the database, two predominant width categories were identified: 0 to 790mm and 790 to 1095mm. Subsequently, these two fixed widths determined the sizes of the skeletal frames. Various windows were fitted within either of these widths, and leftover space was infilled with 18mm boards made from agricultural waste. Keeping two constant widths to accommodate the wide variety of window sizes allows the structure to remain modular. Its replicability ensures quick assembly carried out by unspecialized labor. This strategy also allows the pavilion to be pre-designed and controlled, rather than requiring in-situ fitting and cutting, as is usually the case when dealing with reclaimed items.

Structure

Casa Azul’s main structure is composed of 30mm x 30mm aluminium T-slot extrusions, which are lightweight and highly versatile in orthogonal connections. These versatile profiles are easy to reuse, as they are assembled and disassembled with mechanical fasteners. Casa Azul’s basic form resembles an archetypical house. Keeping the angles at 90 and 45 degrees enables off-the-shelf connectors to be used rather than requiring custom joints. The front elevation comprises 5 modules of planar trusses: the base is a Vierendeel truss, while the sides and pitches are parallel chord trusses. The truss webs constituted 5mm turnbuckles holding 1mm steel cables in tension.

Construction and Erection

Assembly was carried out by students, volunteers and hired workers. The pavilion was constructed into two modules, each made of 5 flat panels (floor, two walls and two sloped roofs). Wheels were secured on the bottom face to allow easy maneuvering. With the modules on their sides, windows and opaque panels were mounted and held in place by aluminum tabs, keeping the salvaged windows and infill panels intact.

Erection was a simple but exciting process: each module, assembled horizontally, was manually rotated 90 degrees about its base. Wheels that had been pre-secured onto the base allowed the whole lightweight structure to be mobile. Two such erected sandwiches were then pushed together to form the Casa Azul. An interior roof of 10mm polycarbonate is then suspended at the tip and corners of the structure’s pitch. Along each of the 5 planes a 9m long LED-strip is fitted within the cavity of the extrusions, lighting up the structure with a prominent blue in the evenings.

After several rounds of assembly and disassembly at various events, Casa Azul will find its permanent home at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Lead Architects: Felix Raspall, Carlos Banon, Aurelia Chan

Design Team: Felix Raspall, Carlos Banon, Aurelia Chan (project lead), Mohit Arora, Jenn Chong Tay, Sourabh Maheshwary, Michele Sodano, Sihan Wang, Anna Toh Hui Ping, Nahaad Mohammed Vaheed, and the Engie Team.

Engineering: Sterling C&S Consulting Services

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