The most dramatic element of the Theme Pavilion at Expo 2012 (Yeosu, Korea) is a kinetic façade whose function, movements and mechanics mimic that of nature. To achieve this, Soma worked with German engineering consultant Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering to develop a biomimetic outer skin that uses low-tech hardware and materials.
Throughout the day, the 135+ meter façade functions as a giant architectural gill designed to control the flow of light into the pavilion's best practice area. The actual 'gill' is composed of 108 fins, each of which measures between 3 and 14 meters tall while being about 9mm thick. The fins open and close by simple compression, with the longest ones offering the widest angle of opening. Actuators at the top and bottom squeeze each glass fiber-reinforced polymer fin, forcing it to buckle along one of its sides. Meanwhile, the remaining side is left to pivot on a bearing thereby enlarging or reducing the opening.
The kinetic façade is controlled by four computers, consuming a maximum of 80 kW in the process. However, about one third of the energy used to open the façade is recovered when the fins are released.
In a closed position, the fins are held in tension in order to withstand typhoon winds common to the area. As such, the kinetic façade has been designed to last 25 years seeing as its movements rely on very low-tech mechanisms.