University Of Cambridge & PLP Architecture


‘Unfolding’ envelops a future of design. It explores the evolving relationship between nature and the city, natural materials and buildings, and a flexible, adaptable and responsible future unfolding, balanced between people and the planet.

Design resonates throughout the environment, perhaps no more so than in the materials we build with. In the past year we have experienced the importance of our connection to nature. Through ‘Unfolding’ the Center for Natural Material Innovation at University of Cambridge seek to show a range of creative possibilities when we work in collaboration with nature and natural materials, cultivating the materials we can grow for a built environment in which we can thrive.

The world faces a climate emergency, in part because the built environment accounts for almost 40% of carbon emissions. By using engineered timber for buildings, we can leave behind an era of extracting building materials and move towards a future of growing them. Engineered timber has excellent structural properties and is the only structural material that sequesters carbon in its cells while growing. Architecturally, timber lets us create a more pleasant, healthier, relaxed, sociable and creative urban experience.  

‘Unfolding’ examines the potential for using engineered timber for the production of flexible housing. The pavilion explores the ways in which timber can improve the way we live through a light, flexible and transformable structure.  The team use kerfing, a cutting method that can turn flat rigid panels into foldable or curved elements. The technique relies on designing the scoring or cutting patterns to fold or bend the surface to its target geometry. The topology and geometry of kerf patterns, fabrication processes with different equipment and types of wooden panels will be explored, to develop a final installation of folded timber components. The design of the pavilion enables it to transform throughout the month of the exhibition, illustrating various spatial possibilities.

‘Unfolding’ proposes a pavilion that shows how we can build a better and truly sustainable urban future by using engineered timber. It is time to grow our forests, to grow our building materials and to grow our cities sustainably to bring nature back to the places we live.

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Photography: Ed Reeve

Photography: Ed Reeve


Project Design:

Center for Natural Material Innovation at the University of Cambridge: Michael H. Ramage; Ana Gatóo; Antiopi Koronaki; Yelda Gin; Darshil U. Shah; Aurimas Bukauskas; Eduardo Wiegand; Mutsuko Grant. PLP Architecture: Ron Bakker; Abhinav Choudary; Midori Ainoura; Lars Hesselgren; Richard Woolsgrove; Nathaniel Moore; Harjit Sembi. Dukta Flexible Wood: Pablo Lunin. Light Earth Designs.


Laudes Foundation; PLP Architecture; Centre for Digital Built Britain and the Construction Innovation Hub; Arts and Humanities Research Council; Cambridge Trust

Manufacturing Partner:

Grymsdyke Farm

Material Support:

American Hardwood Export Council