San Francisco Architects Zoe Prillinger and Luke Ogrydziak (Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects), known for their progressive, modern designs that include new media technologies, discuss their creation of the Presidio Habitats Exhibit Pavilion from repurposed shipping containers arranged at 120 degree angles around a central atrium. This innovative 1,300-square-foot temporary exhibition space is formed from three reclaimed shipping containers arranged at 120 degrees around a central atrium. Where possible, the design principles reflect the use of materials that are from the place or respond directly to the place. The flooring and outdoor decking and seating areas are made of surplus Presidio cypress removed under the Presidio Trust’s reforestation program. Windows are aligned to allow views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the historic buildings of Fort Scott.
A 1,300 sf nomadic exhibition space for site-specific art touches down in the Presidio like an alien space ship, aligning its north-facing wing to frame views of the nearby Golden Gate Bridge. Formed by three reclaimed shipping containers arranged at 120-degree angles around a central atrium, the overall form is an innovative configuration of component parts that can be assembled and disassembled for use elsewhere. This three-fold rotational symmetry creates a figure known as a triskelion. Maximizing perimeter surface area while creating an internal void, the form implies rotation around a local center, along with the star-like axial extension of its three extending tips. Designed for minimal impact on the site and using largely repurposed materials, the structure was built off-site and positioned in place by a crane. Daylighting analysis ensures visually comfortable conditions for gallery viewing and reduces overall electrical loads, which are minimized for off-grid performance.
Low energy use was a particular priority for the Triskelion, a 1,300-square-foot moveable pavilion commissioned by the nonprofit arts organization FOR-SITE. The building consists of three shipping containers arranged at 120-degree angles to define a central skylit atrium. Since May 2010 it has been installed at the Presidio, where it was part of the yearlong Presidio Habitats—an exhibition of artist-created animal habitats distributed around one corner of the national park. The pavilion served as a space for the display of sketches and models.
- Because Presidio officials required that the building be easily demountable and leave no trace of its existence once removed, the Triskelion could not tie into nearby utilities. It needed to be completely “untethered” from the site, says architect Luke Ogrydziak.
To meet the requirement, the project team devised an off-the-grid lighting scheme largely dependent on daylight penetrating the central skylight, windows at the ends of each container, and side openings. But for those times when daylight is insufficient, the power generated by a rooftop 4,440-W photovoltaic array illuminates photo-sensor-controlled T5 lamps inserted within fabric-covered coves. The light evenly washes the walls, creating an effect different from that found in most gallery settings, where individual pieces of art are typically highlighted against a dark background, explains George Loisos, principal of Bay Area–based Loisos + Ubbelohde, the project’s lighting and daylighting consultant. The more usual approach would have required track lights, but the containers had insufficient headroom, he says. The chosen strategy also offered the advantage of keeping the ceiling clear of fixtures, making the skylight opening seem like an abstract cut in the drywall plane, points out Ogrydziak.
- “This project is a nomadic exhibition space for site-specific art. Formed by three reclaimed shipping containers arranged at 120-degree angles around a central atrium, the resulting tri-symmetrical ‘triskelion’ form is an innovative configuration of component parts that can be assembled and disassembled for use elsewhere.” – Citation Award / AIA San Francisco Awards
Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects:
Across from the Presidio’s landmark Log Cabin, an itinerant structure hosting an exhibition of site-specific art in the Presidio descends on the site like an alien space ship. Aligning its north-facing wing to frame views of the nearby Golden Gate Bridge, the structure is composed of three reclaimed shipping containers set at 120-degree angles relative to each other. The residual triangular space created at the center of the arrangement supports a diffused skylight, acting as an atrium within the exhibition space for sculpture display. Thematizing the temporary and mobile nature of the exhibition space, the overall form is a simple but innovative configuration of component parts that can be assembled and disassembled for use elsewhere. Each shipping container is a 48′ long, 9.5′ high, 8′ wide APL ‘High Cube’, and is painted to reflect the tricolor identity of the project sponsor, the FOR-SITE Foundation.
Designed for minimal impact on the existing site, the structure was manufactured off-site, and trucked to location in four loads (three containers composing the structure proper and one extra container for additional smaller parts). The on-site fabrication was limited to the assembly of these primary components and the following three pieces: access path, deck, and a foundation system of twelve 3 ½” diameter helical piers. Since the temporary exhibition space is made of shipping containers, the structural integrity of the existing containers provides most of the structural support within the space. Reinforced with minimal additional steel framing, the major components are bolted for assembly and disassembly. 100% daylit during normal operating hours, a photovoltaic array mounted on the roofs of the containers supplies the project’s low-energy electrical needs. All additional elements on the site – access paths to negotiate site grades, a deck and outdoor benches, are constructed using reclaimed materials from the Presidio.
We began this project thinking about efficiency. By definition, shipping containers are efficient. Their standardized forms imply a vast global network of transportation and commerce. When grouped at maximum (100%) efficiency they form a tightly packed three dimensional Cartesian matrix; inside a standard container array, there is no wasted space. As such, our initial design strategy was to consider various inefficient configurations – free from the relentless logic of the grid. Limiting ourselves to the arrangement of three containers, two basic paradigms emerged. STAR. This layout maximizes perimeter surface area and does not create any internal space wider than a single container; abstracted into an array, the star implies a hexagonal grid. SIMPLEX. This layout results from enclosing the maximum surface area possible using three containers; abstracted into an array, the two-dimensional simplex implies a diagrid. The final project combines these two strategies into a more complex figure: a TRISKELION. This figure does not have a corresponding implied array. Rather, it implies rotation around a local center (rather than a uniform array), along with a star-like axial extension along its three extending tips. Experientially, the resultant interior space produces a spinning effect. At any given point, one’s vision is split between competing axes; this creates the destabilizing effect of a bifurcated point of view – an experience of always looking awry.
Project name: Triskelion
Location: The Presidio, San Francisco, California, United States
Specific Use of Building: Temporary Exhibition Space
Materials: Shipping Container
Project Area: 1,300-sq.ft
Project Year: 2009
Completion Year: 6/2010
- 2012 The American Institute of Architect (AIA Awards) – AIA San Francisco Awards – Design Awards: Architecture – Citation Award
- 2010 The American Institute of Architect (AIA Awards) – AIA California Council Awards – Design Awards: Architecture – Merit Award
Client / Owner / Developer: FOR-SITE Foundation – Cheryl Haines, Director, 49 Geary Street, Suite 205, San Francisco, California 94108, United States
Architects: Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects – 2148 Larkin St, San Francisco, California 94109, United States
Project Design: Zoe Prillinger, Luke Ogrydziak
Engineer: Endres-Ware – Paul Endres, Principal
General Contractor: Forsythe General Contractors – Mark Forsythe, Principal
Consultants / Assistants: Daylighting/Energy – Loisos and Ubbelohde
Text Description: © Courtesy of Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects, AIA San Francisco Awards, FOR-SITE Foundation, AIA California Council Awards
Images: © Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects, Tim Griffith, Monique Deschaines