03_MIT 150 pavilion



MIT Professor Nick Gelpi has been commissioned to design and construct a welcome pavilion (above) in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the Massachusetts Institute of Design.  This study was to investigate construction methods through CNC machining and material possibilities.



The skin, and frame were CNC milled on the ShopBot PRSALPHA 120.  The cut sheets (above) were strategically laid out to maximize the efficiency of the milling process while minimizing wasted material.  All parts processed with the below routing specifications:

spindle speed:         14000 RPM

feed rate:                   3″ per second

plunge rate:              1″ per second

pass depth:              .27″ per pass


The prototype was successful as it uncovered new opportunities for improvement.  The 1/4″ Meranti plywood skin slid over a series of hook, locking it to the 3/4″ CDX plywood frame.  Areas to further investigate:

1.  This fastening method, although structurally sound, proved to be difficult to install as the bending moment in the ply causes great friction with the frame.

2.  The frames horizontal supports interfere with the movability of the skins feathers, and need to be configured to accommodate this movement.

3.  The hook placement along the frame needs to be further investigated to more accurately contour the skin to the frame.


The above is a photo of the prototype’s footing.  This detail unifies the feathers by connecting connecting them with a 3/4″ plywood “sai”, which hooks provides hooks for the feathers to lock into.  This detail failed structurally as the tolerances between the feathers and the hooks slot were too great, allowing for slippage in the joint connection.  A second step investigation should tighten up this tolerance as well as introducing a horizontal to mechanically lock the vertical placement of these feathers.



The pavilion is to be installed into existing concrete paving.  The paving is old, cracked, and slopes 5″ over the length of this 20′ long pavilion.  This detail proposes that the pavilion is to sit on a series of threaded rod feet, epoxy anchored into the paving, allowing accurate adjustability by the movement of a nut.



Barn raising has been a celebrated event for many years.  The event safely and quickly erects the main structure of a building.  This community wide event is a celebration of the completion of what traditionally was the most costly asset in many families.


The site is public, and the assembly and erection of this pavilion needs to be quick, and the celebration needs to be great as MIT is 150 years old!!  The above diagram illustrates how the parts fit together, and easily hoist safely into position.

4.196 Special Problems in Architectural Design Complete Fabrications Nick Gelpi Mon-Fri, Jan 5-7, 10-11, 13-14, 18, 20-21, 24-25, 27-28, 01-04:00pm, 3-402/7-432studio, 1st mtg Wed 1/5 Pre-register on WebSIS and attend first class. No listeners Prereq: Permission of instructor ; Yr-1 MArch students who have completed 4.123 only Level: H 9 units Standard A - F Grading Can be repeated for credit Lab Fee: 150 A comprehensive introduction to methods of “making” explored through a wide range of brief but focused exercises. Skills = developing complex geometries from flat components; fine-tuning press fit construction, molding and casting, and making repeatable molds for customization. A two-part workshop, the first half will contextualize contemporary tools and techniques within the trajectories of historical case studies of building, combined with hands on familiarization of tools. The second half will implement the tools of our workshop in the context of Design. Working on group design build process for three MIT 150 FAST installations, students will test and influencing designs through the instrumentality of production. These hands-on design build projects are intended to produce reciprocity between skills and design, making more complete the problems of fabrication. Subject limited to year-one MArch students who have completed core-1 studio. Contact: Nick Gelpi, 9-224, 253-9415, -


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