The first thing visitors to ArkDes, Sweden´s national centre for architecture and design, meet is the new exhibition room Deus ex machina, commonly called the Machine. It is centrally located in ArkDes main space and its directionless circular space with its clear midpoint accentuates, like a pin on a map, the importance of the space. The machine signals a long-awaited new start for ArkDes, where smaller, current and unconventional exhibitions find a space. The circular shape, in addition to its symbolism, is a result of the site's prerequisites, taking into account important sight lines and patterns of movement. As well as the ambition to create a fascinating exhibition space.
Deus ex machina. As a visitor, one will find a clear cylindrical volume, the Machine, which, at a closer view, shows its own character and an interesting system that requires a moment's effort to understand.
The construction is rational, economical and at the same time obstinate. It consists, for example, of a roof structure with a distorted grid system, an irregular rhythm of pillars turned at different angles and an inside which is to a large extent an inversion of the outside. Individually these building elements are deliberately disparate in order to together be a logical result of what is identified as important for the Machine to achieve; a large, robust and flexible exhibition area with clear identity adapted to important sight lines and motion patterns.
The Machine is located approximately 3m from ArkDes main entrance, greeting visitors with an open space from which they immediately get an overview of ArkDes all activities; the temporary exhibition, the permanent exhibition and the auditorium. And the machine itself.
It stands as solitary, to emphasize its importance, but also to enable movement around and to other activities. Through its circular plan the movement around is dramatised, where spaces between the Machine and existing walls expand and shrink. The corner of the ArkDes main entrance creates a surface suitable for information, installations and/or seating furniture. A similar surface is created in the corner of the auditorium.
Strategically positioned openings in the Machine, together with long sight lines, create the prerequisite for intuitive movement between ArkDes various activities, both through and around the new exhibition space. Orientation through the Machine is clarified by the exposed roof structure, where the direction of the long wooden beams results from the location of the openings.
Once inside the Machine, one meets the room, classical in its geometry, with a clear ambition to be an interesting backdrop for the important exhibitions, talks, debates, film screenings, lectures and other events taking place.
The new exhibition room is general with a large degree of flexibility. The circular shape of the plan is effective as all floor and wall surfaces can be used for exhibitions. The floor surface is 150 sqm and the internal total height of the room is 4.8m, where the wall surface of the plaster, adapted for repeated hanging, is 2.4m high.
The whole new exhibition area is accessible and can be closed and darkened if necessary.
Construction. ArkDes is, among other things, a knowledge center with a unique government assignment to work to ensure quality aspects of architecture and design. In response, the Machine is deliberately pedagogically designed with a visible structure that gives visitors an understanding of the building's logic. The Machine is constructed completely of wood as a basis for discussion about sustainable construction, but also in conjunction with Swedish building tradition. This creates a historical link, but also a pleasant and recognisable environment where visitors can feel the texture, scent, and quality of the material. The framework, as well as visible plywood, is in birch. The light an smooth wood together with careful detailing creates a calm backdrop for the Machine's various activities.
The roof structure grid system (and pillars) consists of laminated, fine-grated birch beams from which exhibits can be hung. Although the longest span is approx. 14 m the construction can be designed with slender and only 75 mm wide beams (eg Pollmeier BauBuche), which contributes to the spatial qualities of the room. The roof structure, with its irregularity, creates a playful expression as a contrast to the strict geometric shape of the plan. This effect is reinforced by placing the wooden pillars (on a weight distributing sill plate) where the roof structure grid system meets the circumference of the circle. In the facade, an irregular pillar position is created with pillars turned in different directions. The construction creates a tension between the machine's easy-to-understand cylindrical volume and a pillar and grid system that at first glance lives its own life.
Lighting is placed between the roof beams and possibly on the surface above the plaster walls. The Machine allows for great flexibility in different lighting environments which, in consultation with ArkDes, are studied in the design phase.
Deus ex machina (further development). An attractive further development of the Machine is the addition of mobile walls hanging from the roof structure. These are placed along the beams between the machine's openings and thereby reinforce sight lines. The mobile plaster walls allow for more hanging surfaces but above all a wide variety of different room configurations; close, open, few, many, small or just one big one. As walls hang from the roof, an exciting spatial sequence is created between high spaces and low-hanging wall surfaces. Like backdrops in the stage design of a theatre, the walls are hoist and the new exhibition room is transformed even more into a machine (and relates at the same time to the adjacent Pontus Hultén’s display area).