heneghan peng architects

Pavilion of Ireland | Venice Architecture Biennale 2012

The Pavilion of Ireland is located at the end of the Artiglierie in the Arsenale; it is composed of a bench for resting & its structural moment diagram as a series of wall drawings.

The two opposing walls transcribe both the structural moment diagram for the bench & the cutting matrix for the individual stones which forms the 2 folded cut lines of the Giant’s Causeway Visitor’s Centre; the fold of the building and the fold of the car park. A long 12 meter bench, constructed of 6 interlinked sections, 6 rotation-only fulcrums & 5 translation pivots, provides a place to sit at the end of the Artiglierie. The bench, when at rest in balanced equilibrium is horizontal.



The soldier course, at 805mm above slab level, on the Artiglierie brick walls measures waterline and sets the height of the bench. This simple machine is brought out of stable equilibrium by sitting, changing the body’s relation to the set 805mm geometric horizon. 12 interlinked lever arms rotate; responding to a precise mechanical relationship set up between variable constraints, mass & position and fixed constraints, 11 pivot axes. A second person sitting sets in motion a second series of interconnected movements and so on with every subsequent visitor. Motion can be varied by sliding the body horizontally. This translation of mass along the bench length varies the lever arm and the resultant applied moment. Force applied at any of the 6 fulcrums (which are marked) does not vary motion; the bench remains static. The bench returns to stable equilibrium when no acting bodies are present.

The 2 opposing scripted walls are the geometric instruction set for stone fabrication both fixed & variable; that defines the final cutting & set-out dimensions for the 186 basalt columns at the Giant’s Causeway Visitor’s Centre on the Northern Irish Coast. The original architectural instruction set was designed to be adaptive to the unpredictable nature of the basalt extraction process. This final matrix transcribes information for each cutting template, position index, wastage/re-use ratio and maximum yield size per stone block based on inherent and induced fractures, during the 12 blast-extractions that occurred at local quarries in the 18-month construction programme. The horizontal spacing defines the structural moment of the bench; the vertical spacing the height of individual stone blocks per extraction.

Fact sheet


Culture Ireland in partnership with the Arts Council of Ireland


Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht & the RIAI


Elizabeth Francis


John McLaughlin





Kubix GmbH


Kubix GmbH


Durlum GmbH


Marie-Louise Halpenny



heneghan peng architects
14–16 Lord Edward Street, Floor 2
Dublin D02 YC63, Ireland

Tel +353 (0)1 633 9000
Fax +353 1 633 9010



Potsdamer Strasse 98a, 4. OG
10785 Berlin

Tel +49 30 20 89 88 750
Fax +49 30 20 89 88 759