Sydney Customs House is recognised for its on-going support of cutting edge design forums and innovation in the arts. In 2008, they commissioned Sydney-based design team, LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture) to create the Green Void feature for their 2008 Architectural exhibition. LAVA approached MakMax Australia to join the project as structural engineers and fabricators for the showpiece lycra architecture installation that filled the Customs House atrium.
The idea is a digital design of shapes and forms that are drawn from nature. The five ‘funnels’ of the design reach out to connect to each level of the atrium while hovering over a superb model of the city. Light passes through the translucent fabric throwing abstract green splashes throughout the space. At night, further illumination accentuates the organic shapes while the gossamer-like tentacles embrace the Customs House media wall with 11 video screens. This makes the structure take on the look of an iconic green lava lamp. The entire installation was wrapped in a stunning soundscape.
In one of the city’s finest heritage buildings, the impressive atrium presents as a beautiful but challenging light-filled space reaching over 20 metres. Green Void was to provide a 3D example of futuristic design and engineering in dramatic contrast with this historic location. However, the added challenge was absolutely no residual fixtures or riggings to remain once the structure was removed.
Lightweight, highly flexible Lycra fabric, aluminium rings and supports, 2mm stainless steel cable all combined with the latest digital fabrication and engineering techniques creates ‘more from less’. Force density shaping and elastic analysis determined the complex shape that involved 300m2 across 3000 cubic metres.
Green Void won many awards for design innovation. Among these, the Australian Canvas and Synthetic Products Association (ACASPA) Award for Excellence and runner up in the Architectural Association 2009 AA FAB awards, Interior Section. The structure also received large media coverage within Australia and was publicised in print media and on architecture websites around the world. The Green Void succeeded in achieving optimum efficiency in material usage, fabrication and installation time, construction weight, while at the same time achieving maximum visual impact in the large atrium space.