Designing site furniture is always demanding. Products need to resist weather, vandalism, wear from repeated use, and possess visual appeal for masses of passersby.

Prague firm Atelier SAD received a crash course in such rigors of product manufacturing when it collaborated with landscape furniture company Mmcité1 on a portable gazebo structure called Pinecone, shown on this page.

The manufacturer’s brief was for a shelter that would be fun, but also easy to break down, transport, and reassemble in a day. Because clever design is also key to marketability, the company turned to SAD, a team of designers and architects with a penchant for concrete Brutalism and the sculptural architecture of the sixties.

“We were aiming to smash boundaries. Above all, the Pinecone is a versatile structure which works in parks and schools alike,” says David Karásek, the manufacturer’s co-owner and designer, explaining the market impact they wanted it to have.

But the most durable materials are often heaviest, so keeping the structure lightweight introduced an additional layer of challenges. Which material was both strong and portable, without being too expensive for mass production?

SAD’s designers responded by creating the friendly, freestanding structure shown here, which is made of 109 plywood panels shaped like fish scales. Coated with a special waterproofing finish, the panels attach to a dome-shaped steel frame in seven tiers using a system of galvanized steel joints. Openings between scales enable natural ventilation, light and gentle sound control in outdoor spaces.