Montana State University

MSU students collaborate in pingpong pavilion featured in London pre-Olympic festivities

July 3, 2012 -- By Carol Schmidt, MSU News Service


Made nearly entirely from materials common to a construction site -- scaffolding, planks, tarp and scaffolding netting -- the Playful Ping Pong Pavilion was designed and built as a cooperative project between the MSU School of Architecture and Oxford Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom is expected to be seen by hundreds of thousands of people visiting pre-Olympic activities in London this week. The pavilion, which features around-the-world pingpong, is an installation at the London Festival of Architecture. Photo courtesy of Agnes Pohl.   High-Res Available

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A pavilion that offers a playful look at pingpong that was a joint project of architecture students at Montana State University and Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom is expected to be seen by hundreds of thousands of people visiting pre-Olympic activities in London this week.

The Playful Ping Pong Pavilion is a part of the London Festival of Architecture, open through July 8. The project that was designed and built by students of Christopher Livingston at MSU and Harriet Harriss, senior lecturer in architecture at Oxford Brooks University, offers visitors a chance to play around-the-world pingpong. The pavilion is one of several installations at the Industri[us] project at the festival in London's Canning Town area.

"It is really exciting for me to have our project in the heart of all the Olympic activity," said Agnes Pohl, an MSU student from Minneapolis, Minn., and one of five MSU students to participate in the U.K. design build project. Seven students from Oxford Brookes participated.

"The people we worked with in (the U.K.) were friendly and kind and it was a great experience for MSU students," Livingston said.

Livingston and the MSU students traveled to Oxford in May to design and build the pavilion, which is made of planks with construction scaffolding poles woven through. The pavilion then was disassembled and transported to London and reassembled for the June 26 opening of the London Festival of Architecture.

"Essentially all the materials we used were things you would find on a construction site -- scaffolding, planks, tarp and scaffolding netting," Pohl said.

Zyg Wotzak, a third-year MSU architecture student from Barrington, Ill., said that like most projects, this one had its challenges in the beginning when the raw materials necessary were absent. But he said the students worked through the problems and successfully designed and built a playing surface for around-the-world pingpong that allowed the pingpong ball to ricochet off any surface, and a design that would allow many people to jump in or out of the activity without disrupting the flow of the game. As many as 20 players can play at one time in around-the-world pingpong.

In the end, Wotzak said, the pavilion turned out beautifully, and was able to be used in the ways for which it was designed.

"When we opened it a few nights before we left, everyone was having a blast running around the table, it felt really good to see that," Wotzak said. "I think people will love it when it moves to London. I wish I was there to see it being used by thousands of people."

The project resulted from a trip that Harriss made to MSU last summer researching American universities that had architecture schools involved with design build projects. She met with Livingston and soon had an idea for a collaborative project that would be on display during the Olympics.

Livingston said that the proposal for the festival required that it had a sports theme.

"We didn't know much about pingpong, much less around the world pingpong, when we began," said Livingston, who returned to London to help reassemble the pavilion and attend the festival. "But, it turned out to be a fun project."

Wotzak said that the collaboration with students from the U.K. was the best part of the project.

"Working with the Oxford-Brookes students was great," Wotzak said. "Their course curriculum was, in my opinion, very different than ours, so they had completely different ways of looking at the design and were able to bring new ideas and problem solving skills that we, the MSU team, weren't necessarily thinking about, and vice versa: We brought new ideas and a new mindset to their design."

"I think (what it helped) me as a person and an architect, was the understanding not to stress about the little stuff, or the big stuff, and if you ask nicely people will help you with almost anything," Pohl said.

Livingston said an MSU faculty development grant and assistance from MSU's Office of International Programs and the School of Architecture Advisory Council helped make the project possible.

To learn more about the Playful Ping Pong Pavilion, go to http://www.lfa2012.org/events/view/the-playful-ping-pong-pavilion-101.

To learn more about the London Festival of Architecture, go to http://www.industri-us.org/

Chris Livingston (406) 994-6985, clivingston@montana.edu