Workshop Instructor
Dr. Philippe Block
Associate Professor Institute of Technology in Architecture, ETH Zurich
Director, BLOCK Research Group  

Joe Dahmen
Assistant Professor of Design and Sustainability Integration, UBC SALA



This special two-day workshop at UBC SALA will cover the design of hyper-efficient lightweight compressive shell structures. Participants in the workshop will work in teams to design and prototype a temporary pavilion for the UBC campus using RhinoVAULT, a specialized software plugin for Rhinoceros developed at ETH Zurich by the BLOCK Research Group. RhinoVAULT is an intuitive, rapid and robust funicular design tool, enabling architects to design efficient three-dimensional shell structures in accordance with the flow of forces. Based on new research on the underlying structural principles of complex 3D equilibrium surface structures, RhinoVAULT is an intuitive design tool that opens new territories of expressive form to architects. Students in the workshop will develop conceptual designs for an efficient shell structure pavilion for the centre of the UBC campus.

Exercise: Mushroom Screening Room


The mushroom screening room is a temporary site-­specific architectural installation that engages with the aesthetics and economics of Vancouver’s urban redevelopment. Like other aspiring contemporary cities such as Panama City and Dubai, Vancouver utilizes global capital in an effort to reinvent itself on the world stage, oscillating between demolition and speculative construction. These other gateway cities strive to become centres of trade or finance. Vancouver has a qualitatively different vision: to become the world’s greenest city. Combining this aspiration with the mechanism of global speculative development produces a paradox. Despite the presence of some of the most progressive and experimental urban planning policies in North America, can global capital, with its attendant pressures to produce short term gains, construct a sustainable city? 

The installation provides architectural space in which visitors observe screens and projections of looped videos and image sequences pertaining to urban aspirations and failures of the last decade in Vancouver. Multiple screens display media streams grouped by type: demolitions, vacant apartments, pre-­construction sites, interviews with prominent real estate developers, signage and renderings, demographics, news items, and citizen actions. The screenings interrogate the ways in which the global and local real estate markets respond to and affect the aspirations of the greenest city. 

The architecture of the screening room is a compressive shell structure constructed of blocks composed of sawdust and mycelium. Mycelium is a threadlike fungus that plays an essential role in natural world, aiding in the decomposition of materials and converting them to biologically available elements. When mixed with sawdust however, mycelium binds together substrate fibres to produce a light-­weight structural mass similar to styrofoam in strength and texture. The screening room will combine elements of decay, destruction and renewal through the content of the films and the material and form of the installation, exploring our sometimes conflicting aspirations latent in the architectural environment downtown. 



The Mushroom Screening Room design must provide the following: Accommodate up to ten visitors to observe video loops on 3 projection screens Seating for visitors Secure space for projectors or other AV equipment Total occupiable area: approximately 25m2 Site The Mushroom screening room will be installed for 6 months at the intersection of Main and West Mall. 



Minimum dimensions: 25mm thickness in any dimension
Compressive Strength : .069MPa (10Psi) 
Density: 330kg/M3 The mushroom screening room must be constructed entirely of mycelium biocomposite blocks or tiles. Other materials may be used for waterproofing.

The Mushroom Screening Room is a research design project led by SALA Assistant Professor Joe Dahmen and Emily Carr University Associate Professor Amber Frid-Jimenez, sponsored by UBC SEEDS program. The project team consists of graduate research assistants Joomi Seo, Yan Luo and Maxim Pravosoudov.


Monday, March 16
Morning session LASSERRE ROOM 301
• 9:00 am Welcome, introduction, form teams
• 9:15 am Introduction to thrust network analysis form finding with RhinoVAULT
• 11:15 am Student independent tutorial session
• 12:00pm Break for lunch in LASR Room 202 (lunch will be provided)

Afternoon: LASSERRE ROOM 202
• 1:00pm Student independent tutorial sessions
• 2:00pm Introduce pavilion project
• 2:15pm Teams work on pavilion in 202
• 4pm Wrap up and comments Evening: UBC Robson Square
• 6:30pm Public lecture by Philippe Block
• 8:00pm Teams work independently on pavilion designs

Tuesday March 17
Morning: LASSERRE ROOM 301
• 8:00am Teams upload short presentation documents as PDFs to dropbox
• 9:00 5 minute presentations of pavilion design by teams
• 10:45 Wrap up, prizes for top three projects
• 10:55 Farewell


Selected Student Work

S.Lodge & D.MacDermott
J.Heinrich, D.Nguyen & G.Neogi
M. Pravosoudov


BC Hydro Powersmart
UBC SEEDS program