The Folding Tunnel

1st prize Award - International Architecture Competition 2012

  • Project : an exhibition structure in front of the Milavec Hakimi Gallery
  • Location : the ground floor of Cooper Union building in New York City
  • Organizer : Anonymous.d design magazine & Milavec Hakimi Gallery 
  • Team : Petar BELEV & Delian NAYDENOV

… unfolding from a 2dimensional object to a 3dimensional tunnel.

The Milavec Hakimi Gallery has an extremely interesting urban situation.
What does occupying the ground floor of the Cooper Union building mean?
Is it right to conceive a too similar or rather too different project in this powerful context?

The complexity of this dilemma became our inspiration.
We wanted to use the same design strategies that were used for The Cooper Union Building, by the Morphosis team. However, we tried not to use these strategies literally but to interpret them. Only the basic design principles interested us. They became our guideline, our architectural language: the fold, the double curve deformation, the cut, the repetitive panels.

Feasibility was a priority, so we chose simple, sustainable and affordable materials.
The project consists of 1cm thick plywood elements articulated with hinges. The folding of the thin element gives its rigidity. Our goal was to reach a minimum weight and maximum modularity. We had to compose complexity with simple elements. In that manner, a whole practicable 3D tunnel can be unfolded from simple repetitive 2D plywood panels and hinges. The plywood is painted in white, to blend with the context. The Folding Tunnel is a temporary structure which can be easily flattened and packed away.

The Folding Tunnel is structurally independent. It is composed of several independent unfolding lightweight objects (see project video). It does not touch the adjacent walls or any of the building's elements, but rather uses the work area boundaries as a design tool.

There is a strong contrast between the exterior humble nature of the structure and it is almost baroque interior space... 
The sober exterior mysteriously suggests that contrast does exist.  The closer we come, the more the notions of interior and exterior become interlaced and loses limits… on the entry we are already inside the "in between" experience.

The Folding Tunnel is a path parallel to the street with an entry and an exit. It has a sufficient depth in which different experiences related to the activities of the gallery can take place. The Folding Tunnel integrates art pieces into it as an outdoor exhibition space and people can sit and rest inside it. The project is an open public space and respects all handicap accessibility regulations.

The small separate side of the project offers a bench to the public space. It is a meeting place. Its transparent fissures provoke the curiosity of citizens looking inside the gallery.

The form of the tunnel is defined by the function and the different experience sequences: expose (pedestals), sit and rest (benches), illuminate (fissures)….So the three functions provoke three deformations which generate the form of the tunnel, the lighting fissures, the low bench sections(h=44cm) and the higher pedestal sections (h=120cm). The whole becomes a continuous 3dimensional exhibition space which is neither inside, nor outside, but in the liminal realm between the two. 

51 Cooper square   .   New York City
The Cooper Union building & the Folding Tunnel

Milavec Hakimi Gallery -  the ground floor of  the Cooper Union building

The Cooper Union building & The Folding Tunnel - front view
The Folding Tunnel - front view

interior day view

interior night view

night view from the Cooper square

plywood panels and hinges
plywood   +   white paint   +   hinges

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