BamX! returnes to life and dresses in green

BamX! © Alexandre St-Amour 2023 EPFL

BamX! © Alexandre St-Amour 2023 EPFL

A collaboration between Professor Mark Pauly's laboratory at the School of Computer and Communication Sciences and a team from the Vice-Presidency for Responsible Transformation brings a vegetal pavilion to the Ecublens campus.

Just before summer, a strange creature sprang up in the heart of the EPFL campus. Made of bamboo and the result of clever computer calculations, it has come back to life after a period of hibernation. A double revival, since plants have even begun to climb up its nine legs.

Initially presented in September 2022 in the lobby of the SG Building, it is the fruit of a collaboration between Professor Mark Pauly of the Geometric Computing Laboratory and British artist Alison Grace Martin. When he unveiled the project, Prof. Pauly expressed the hope that the structure would find other applications on campus. This has now been achieved on Avenue Piccard.

Stored in several pieces, the structure was reconnected and redeployed at the foot of the BI building. Thanks to the collaboration of the Sustainability unit, BamX! was anchored in air-pots sown with a number of plants, specially chosen to suit the project: a mix of climbers to create shade and perennials to cover the pots, this vegetation will gradually cover the installation and make it a living, welcoming pavilion.

Mix of climbers and perennials

"On this experimental site, we planted clematis, willow, blue catananches, hops, nasturtiums, hollyhocks, mulleins and even calabashes to test different mixes and effects", explains Alexandre St-Amour, member of the Outdoor Spaces team.

At the start of the new academic year in September, the project manager expects to see the hops begin to provide some shade, and then during the autumn he hopes that the squash will have thrived in this experiment in "food urbanism".

In his opinion, all species should adapt well to soilless cultivation, resist variations in watering and sunlight, and require little maintenance. What's more, the colorful flowers will enter into a dialogue with the BI's multicolored facade, with flowering periods spread over several seasons.

"There's an experimental aspect to these air-pots: on a campus as mineral as EPFL's, how do you provide natural shade other than with trees?" shares Alexandre St-Amour. The fact that BamX! has been reinstalled on the perimeter of the Campus Piéton project also makes sense, he adds.

It allows us to showcase the research of EPFL's sections, to share it with our community and to demonstrate what a truly living lab can be.

Alexandre St-Amour, Project Officer at the Sustainability Unit

Professor Pauly agrees: "I am very excited that our BamX! research demonstrator has found a second life on EPFL campus. With this project, we aim to demonstrate that natural materials, in this case untreated, raw bamboo slats, can be used to design advanced structural systems. BamX! exemplifies a symbiosis of refined weaving craft and advanced computational modeling that will hopefully create new opportunities for sustainable design in architecture."

What's next will be interesting to watch: anchored right in front of the entrance to the future Maison de la Mobilité, which from October 2023 will house tl services and EPFL's central travel agency, BamX! is destined to get greener and greener. Discussions are underway with the Balélec Festival, which shakes up the campus alleys every May, to make the structure an integral part of its welcome arrangements, while protecting its boughs from the onslaught of the public.

By then, the creature will have evolved. Who will be the most unleashed, between it and festival-goers?

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Author: Emmanuelle Marendaz Colle

Source: Campus