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CARAPACE PAVILION in Joshua Tree National Park

Raised toward our $15,000 Goal
233 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on June 25, at 12:26 PM PDT
Project Owners

A USC Architecture Design-Build Exploration

Students and faculty of the USC School of Architecture are designing, fabricating, and installing the experimental CARAPACE PAVILION. USC Architecture has the great honor of working in partnership with the National Park Service to place the pavilion inside Joshua Tree National Park.  

While casting one of the five wall panels a set of several small discrepancies all occurred at the same time and caused one of our casting attempts to fail. There was repairable damage, but a set of supplies and materials were lost resulting in a shortfall on total financial support to replace these materials.  

USC Architecture hopes to raise enough funds to replace the materials lost, and also to raise more to help establish the USC Architecture Design-Build Fund supporting future explorations of experimental materials and processes for students.

The CARAPACE PAVILION has been a wonderful design-build hands-on experience for our students studying site and space, cultural heritage, and building technologies that are sustainable.  


  • The structure uses about one-quarter the amount of concrete that it would take for standard concrete formulas.
  • The carapace is designed for zero-maintenance and a 100+ year life span. For example, it does not need to be painted or checked for termites.
  • The design process at USC and during fabrication was almost entirely paperless.
  • The site is a sensitive-native-artifacts location. The raised-bed foundation is designed to have no impact on potential artifacts.
  • The completed pavilion will be 100% recyclable into aggregate for a future concrete project. It has no rebar, thus saving the step of crushing and extracting the rebar during recycling.
  • Off-site prefabrication saves driving time for construction.
  • There is no construction yard area at the site, and thus no negative impacts on the actual national park area adjacent to the project. 
  • It is designed to entirely fit on one truck, saving transportation trips. Plus, the installation will occur in one day.
  • The mold for casting panels is reusable and will be used five times for this project, but easily structurally sound for 30 uses. 

The CARAPACE PAVILION will likely be completed in the summer of 2021 (donors will be notified of the installation date), and USC Architecture has already applied for the next round of industry funding and will start a new project this fall semester. 

Your support will contribute to the success of this experimental structure and future exciting design-build opportunities for USC Architecture students and alumni through the USC Architecture Design-Build Fund. Thank you for your consideration! 

Karen M. Kensek and Douglas Noble are proudly completing their 30th year teaching at the USC School of Architecture. Fight On!

Alumni Kay Mashiach '20, Zach Bergmann '20, and Ivan Wong '20 with Professor Karen M. Kensek looking through the arch of the completed panel. Kay, Zach, and Ivan were part of the original Carapace Pavilion ARCH402b design studio. 


A donation of any amount is appreciated.

$30 helps provide one bag of concrete. One day of casting uses more than 200 bags.

$100 in honor of the nearly 100 architecture students who have worked on this project over the past two years.

$300 or more helps ensure design-build experimental explorations such as the CARAPACE PAVILION are possible for future USC students. 


A time capsule will be placed under the CARAPACE PAVILION with the names of those who worked on the project, sponsored, or donated to this fund. The capsule will have a printed history of the project and small items for future excavators to find.

Time capsule for the Carapace Pavilion. 



Students preparing the excavated foundation at the future location inside Joshua Tree National Park, overlaid with a digital rendering of the Carapace.


  • Karen and Doug have been moving bags of concrete by hand. There are five total panels to be made from 1,050 bags of concrete. Each bag weighs 50 pounds resulting in 50,000 pounds of concrete. Karen alone will have moved 25,000 pounds of concrete, one bag at a time.
  • A graduate student completed a thesis project to develop the custom parametric software tool that helped the design studio students engage in design while managing the technical aspects of structural integrity, panel connections, and materials placement.   
  • A special type of ultra-high-performance concrete is being used with a clever anticlastic curving geometry that will allow the concrete to be as thin as two inches along the centerlines of the panels.  
  • The CARAPACE PAVILION uses no rebar and the concrete serves as the finished surface on both the interior and exterior just exactly as it was cast.  
  • Our calibrated color analysis of the adjacent rocks at the site has led us to select a distinctive pale pink tint with titanium dioxide that is expected to gently glow in the sunrise and sunset.  
  • The students have designed a remarkable mold that will allow us to cast three different types of panels using the same mold.  
  • A total of five panels are needed: One foundation, two walls, and two roof panels. The molds were designed using 3D-computing. Those same files were then used same to drive the CNC digital milling machine to make the foam mold pieces here on campus in the woodshop.  
  • The future home of the CARAPACE PAVILION is in the “VIP” campground in the center of the national park.  The “VIP” label refers to “Volunteers in Parks,” and this is a hidden campsite used by volunteer individuals and groups of the national park. 
  • To reduce site impacts, the pavilion uses an integrated foundation and a raised-bed to avoid potentially disturbing native culture artifacts.  
  • The pavilion is entirely prefabricated off-site, and will be trucked and installed in the park in one day. Although it is intended as a design proposal for a restroom building, we are only building the concrete shell this time, and the project will serve as a test sample and shade pavilion in the park.