HexBox Canopy

The HexBox Canopy is a prefabricated plywood sunshade that uses cutting edge robotic technology to get the most out of a simple material: Ecoply plywood.
Project Name
HexBox Canopy, University of Sydney
Case Study Type

148 City Road
Darlington NSW 2008

Photographer Details
Katherine Lu


The project is located on the second floor terrace of the Wilkinson Building, at the University of Sydney Darlington campus. The design and fabrication was a collaboration between the University of Sydney School of Architecture and TU Kaiserslautern University in Germany.

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The canopy is based on a funicular shell geometry, which is a double curved shell that generally uses a material with high compression strength to achieve thin profiles and large spans. Typically, these types of structures might use a triangle to form the surface subdivision, but in this case a hexagon shape was used.

The timber shell consists of relatively inexpensive, prefabricated hexagon-shaped boxes made from plywood plates. 

All the hollow polygonal segments that form the boxes are mitred and glued. Once all of the boxes are assembled it is extremely quick to construct without formwork or prior expert knowledge. 

1531 timber segments making up the 201 boxes of the HexBox shell. The shell is made exclusively from plywood components, without the addition of any kind of metal fasteners for the main load-bearing structure. The project references traditional wedge joints, in this case using off cuts of plywood from the main plates, which would otherwise be a waste material. Wedge joints were a smart and common method in traditional handcrafted carpentry and cabinetmaking, and particular popular in Japanese carpentry. 

Fabrication was carried out on a 6-axis CNC robot, which was fitted with a spindle and cutting tool. The fabrication team was from the University of Sydney Digital Fabrication Lab.

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