This Prefab Backyard Pavilion Mimics a Dragonfly's Wings

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By Lucy Wang
Prefabricated architecture can get a bad rap for being boring and boxy—not so for this sculptural backyard pavilion.

New York-based CDR Studio Architects designed the striking Dragonfly Pavilion, a 175-square-foot prefabricated structure nestled in a Hoboken, New Jersey backyard. Filled with natural light and ventilation, the screened pavilion was commissioned by clients looking for a space for outdoor living and dining that also offered protection from insects. 

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Ironically, the architects also drew design inspiration from the world of insects despite the client’s bug sensitivity. The pavilion’s intricate timber structure mimics the beautiful geometry and transparency of dragonfly wings. 

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"The wing structure uses primary beams like traditional structure, but also has tessellated cells that are consistent even in their distribution, which we found intriguing," Lea H. Cloud, founding partner at CDR Studio Architects, told Dwell. A pattern-generating algorithm was used to develop the wing structure, and computer modeling allowed for greater efficiency and flexibility in the design and construction process. 

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Cloud continues, "The tessellated forms, or cells, are distributing stresses or forces onto the adjacent members—and so depending on the nature of the overall form and the natural forces—wind, gravity, et cetera—the shape and size of the cells are a response."

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Sustainably harvested and FSC-certified Sapele mahogany form the complex and irregular geometric cells that were attached to a vertical recycled aluminum frame. A patterned, laminated-tempered glass canopy rests on top of the pavilion, allowing natural light to enter the space while preserving privacy. Insect screening fills the mahogany cells. 

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The manufacturing model was first prefabricated in Brooklyn, then taken apart and trucked to Hoboken, where it was assembled and finished on-site in a week.

"Prefabrication and a digital design platform which we shared with the fabricator greatly enhanced the speed of the work and allowed us to work in real time," adds Cloud. "Architecture usually takes time to design, draw, and then build something. These tools evolved that process and everything was faster; it was quite exciting to quickly have this project be completed."

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The Dragonfly Pavilion serves as a sheltered outdoor space for yoga, dining, reading, and sleeping. As an inhabitable backyard threshold, the building provides a transitional space from the deck behind the townhouse to a private garden. The project was completed in 2013 for roughly $125,000.

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