A security kiosk built using waste PVC fabric at Monash University’s Caulfield campus has won the 2015 Small Project Architecture Award from the Australian Institute of Architects.

Hydronaut is a truly unique vinyl-covered structure that combines design flair and material sustainability. In addition to a demountable design, the kiosk was required to provide the security staff vision and access to all areas of the building. The brief also sought semi-permanence and waste minimisation.

Waste PVC fabric, formally used as truck side curtains, was stretched over frames to form an exterior skin for the building.

Speaking about his use of repurposed vinyl to create the unique structure, Dr Mark Richardson, a Lecturer in Industrial Design at Monash University explained that they were keen to explore the use of truck tarpaulins as a facade skin from the beginning of the project. Having discussed reusing vinyl coated fabrics with the Vinyl Council of Australia prior to the project, he thought the kiosk might be a good opportunity to research new applications.

It took the design team a lot of time and several prototypes to figure out how to stretch a three-dimensional form with a consistent surface finish into the tarpaulins. The main difficulty was getting the material to transition from the outer square of the frame to the inner circle of the aperture evenly.

After finding a way to consistently form the material using secondary stretching frames and truck ratchet-strap tie downs to tension the tarp, they fixed it in place with a process similar to the way an artist would stretch a canvas. The window apertures made from modified exercise trampolines were designed to turn out and tension the tarp after the canvas was fixed in place.

Describing the whole venture as a bit of an experiment in longevity, Dr Richardson said the security kiosk was meant to be semi-permanent, so it was a perfect opportunity to test the performance of the material as a building facade. The design team expects to get a good 7 or 8 years out of it and will be documenting its performance over time.