Frieze Art Fair

Architect: Carmody Groarke
Location: Regent's Park, London
Completion: 2011, 2012 & 2013

Inside and all around the giant, temporary tents that form Frieze's annual art fair in Regent's Park are a series of specially designed ancillary buildings and features aimed at giving an architectural feel to the public face of the space and the event itself. From 2011-2013 these elements were designed by Carmody Groarke and included cafes, ticket offices, cinemas, VIP lounges, giant signage and designer fencing.

For each of their three years, the elements were very different in layout and form but used the same actual structural materials recycled from one year to the next. This re-use of materials gave obvious economic and environmental benefits but lead to added structural complexity as the elements selected for the initial design needed to be versatile, demountable, re-usable and inexpensive. Ultimately, we chose 200mm deep timber I-joists and 6mm thick plywood to form the structure for all elements.

The basic elements were a series of interlinked cafes and pavilions. The timber I-joists formed the wall and roof elements, with plywood sheathing strips providing lateral stability.

Where the design called for longer spans, multiple I-sections were stacked to form compound beam sections better able to accommodate the increased length without the need for different sized elements or steel beams. In order to eliminate downstands at these locations and to integrate the stacked beams into the overall aesthetic of the space, these beams needed to be positioned at steps in the roof, with bigger roof steps allowing more beams and longer spans. To achieve this, we worked closely with the architects to coordinate the arrangement of the spaces, beam spans and the tree canopies which formed fluctuating limits to the roof levels around the site.

The next evolution of the structure included 5m high standalone buildings. For this, the I-joists were spliced using plywood splice plates screwed to their sides in order to generate the length required. A stressed skin design was then applied to allow the plywood sheathing forming the outer skin to act compositely with joists to increase their stiffness to accommodate the longer spans.

The major design approach for the final year was to bring in long rows of free standing, cantilevering, wall elements that extended up to 6m high. Again, the I-joists were used to form the vertical sections, tided together along the top and bottom with other joists to form continuous elements. The last remaining joists were then used as diagonal propping elements behind the wall to provide its stability. All of the connections were again formed using simple screws and plywood sheets.