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Pabellon del Futuro, Expo '92
Camino de los Descubrimientos, Isla de la Cartuja, Seville, Spain
Pabellon del Futuro, Expo '92
associated engineer
Ove Arup & Partners
Peter Rice
date  1988 - 1992
UK era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  AA999999
photo  Photo: Fernando Alda, courtesy Arup
The 1992 world's fair, Expo ’92, was held in the Spanish city of Seville. More than 100 nations took part, responding the theme ‘The Age of Discovery’. The Pabellón del Futuro (Pavilion of the Future) features a waveform roof suspended from a delicate morter-free stone arched façade that challenges traditional ideas of stonework. The building is one of the few to survive onsite redevelopment and remains in use.
Expo ’92 was the largest event of its kind up to that point, and was overseen by the organiser's CEO Jacinto Pellón (1935-2006). The fair commemorated 500 years since Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) set out from Seville to 'discover' America. The site occupies a flat stretch of land on Isla de la Cartuja between two branches of the Guadalquivir River, west of the city.
The Pavilion of the Future was one of six themed exhibition arenas. The other five were Discovery, Navigation, Nature, Environment and the Fifteenth Century. Unfortunately the Pavilion of Discovery was badly damaged in a fire on 18th February 1992 and its exhibits destroyed.
The design of the Pavillion is dominated by two structural features — a single row of huge stone arches that form a kind of screen along one elevation, and the waveform roof suspended over four display halls. A suspended canopy covers a central plaza. The building is aligned north-south on a site 25m wide and 300m long, and the screen is about 290m long and 40m high. Originally the halls north of the plaza held exhibits related to environment and energy, with telecommunications and the Universe to the south.
In 1988, architect David Mackay (b.1933) of Martorell Bohigas Mackay (MBM) asked Ove Arup & Partners engineer Peter Rice (1935-92) to join the design team for the Pavilion. Rice worked from the MBM office in Barcelona, alongside Mackay and Oriol Bohigas (b.1925). The design team wanted to revive the use of stone as a structural material, particularly as Spanish stonework technology was more advanced than elsewhere, but make a thoroughly modern building.
The inspiration for the Pavilion’s planar façade came from a visit Rice made to the unfinished freestanding wall of the west wing of the 18th and 19th century Palacio da Ajuda in Lisbon, Portugal. He also realised that stone arches could be constructed from units made up of components, in much the same approach as he used for the glass walls of the greenhouses at Parc de la Villette (1982) in Paris. In both cases, the strength in compression of the respective materials is exploited, and steel trusses are used to handle the tensile forces.
Rice explained: “I conceived the idea that we could prefabricate stone subassemblies in a factory and then assemble them almost as though you were assembling precast concrete ... The stone arches at Seville are based on the premise that you can make pieces extremely accurately and then, by dry-jointing them, you can protect them against cracking and the unacceptable stress levels that might arise. By this method, we could rediscover the structural use of stone and hopefully get back to a natural and real way of using what is, after all, the most fundamental material on earth”. (RIBA Gold Medal address, 1992)
Stone, like glass and concrete, is very strong in compression but prone to cracking in tension. It is vital to prevent it from being subject to tensile forces and sudden loading. A stone arch is geometrically stable until adverse loading causes a hinge or joint in the curve, and then its behaviour becomes non-linear. Hinges can occur at the intrados (inside concave surface) or the extrados (outside convex surface). Arups used their FABLON computer program to analyse non-linear structural arch behaviour by dynamic relaxation, modelling a large number of hypothetical load cases to derive the design configuration described below.
The 11 main stone arches are semicircular, with a centreline radius of 8.7m. They span 12 pairs of 28m high stone columns, spaced 22.4m apart. Horizontal tubular steel crossbars connect each pair of columns at 5m intervals — the first crossbar is 3m above ground. Each set of crossbars is connected to a vertical tubular steel mast set back from the stonework by a triangulated steel lattice and tubular steel props projecting perpendicular to the mast. The resulting façade is in effect a composite steel and stone tower that functions as a vertical cantilever fixed at ground level.
Crossed pairs of partial secondary arches spring from the bases of the primary arches, providing a capital feature above the pairs of columns and ensuring additional compression in the columns from the extra dead weight. The 3D steel lattice extends upwards from the columns to the capital, providing out-of-plane stability to the main arches.
Suspended inside each of the main arches is a concentric semicircle of short steel bars, connected to the arch at 15-degree intervals by radial tie rods. Long steel hangers at either end of the semicircle pick up suspended loads from the roof or canopy trusses below. The arrangement ensures that the thrust line of loads on the arch is centred so that only vertical loads are exerted on the columns.
The stone used is pink Rosa Poriña granite from Galicia in north west Spain. It is three to four times strobnger than concrete. The quarry produced standard blocks, 200mm square and 1.4m long. Techniques developed for the precision cutting of cladding panels were used to cut the blocks to an accuracy of 0.5mm. The prefabricated units for columns and arches were made by epoxy jointing blocks together.
Column units are 5m long and consist of four 200mm thick x 800mm square blocks separated by groups of four 200mm square column-ettes (one at each corner). Neoprene and steel bearing pads, similar to those used on bridges, transmit the vertical loads between units. The inherent flexibility of the bearings prevents significant shear loading on the stonework.
Arch units are 800mm long and similar in style to the column units. They alternate with smaller solid blocks of stone. Joints between the arch units, approx 30mm wide, were cast in situ with pourable grout. A debonded stainless steel dowel passes centrally across the joint to provide a mechanical shear key, though the joints will not resist tension.
The columns were constructed in pairs, like towers, with the triangulated steel lattice between. Once each tower was at full height, its capital (secondary arch) was craned into place, then the primary arch was lifted up to span between the capitals of adjacent towers and the steel lattice completed.
The Pavilion’s roof is a curved wave, descending towards the west. It consists of a series of parallel elongated S-shaped steel trusses, set at 11.2m centres, with side shear bracing. Each bay is angled so that its northern edge rises above the southern edge of the adjacent bay. The cladding is solid over the exhibition halls. A slatted brise soleil covers the central plaza and the north and south ends of the building.
Successive pairs of trusses span from the steel hangers below the stone arches of the façade, over the exhibition halls and plaza, and down to steel tripod supports at the back (west) of the building. The hanger suspension points are counterweighted to prevent roof uplift in high winds. The trusses were built on temporary props, with the loads transferred to the stone arches as the towers were completed.
Expo ’92 began on 20th April and closed on 12th October 1992. Many of the pavilions were dismantled after it finished. The Pavilion of the Future was retained and remains in use for cultural and business events.
The site is now split between a research and development park (Cartuja 93) and a theme park (Isla Magica), which contains the Pavilion of Spain — another survivor of Expo ’92.
Architect: Martorell Bohigas Mackay (MBM) with Jaume Freixa
Contractor: Entrecanales y Tavola SA
Stonemason: Arquiedra SA, of Vigo
Research: ECPK
"The Engineer's Contribution to Contemporary Architecture: Peter Rice" by Andre Brown, Thomas Telford Publishing, London, 2001
"Royal Gold Medal Address 1992" by Richard MacCormac, Renzo Piano, Peter Rice and Richard Rogers, in RIBA Journal, London, September 1992
"Pabellon del Futuro, Expo ’92, Seville" by Peter Rice and Alistair Lenczner, in Arup Journal, 27(3), pp.20-23, Autumn 1992
reference sources   AEI

Pabellon del Futuro, Expo '92