by Abraham PanakalDec 16, 2019
The University of Stuttgart in Germany is a research varsity renowned for innovation in design and technology. Within the university, the Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) is dedicated to the teaching and research of computer-aided manufacturing processes in architecture.
Integrating the fields of design, engineering, planning and construction, the institute provides a platform to explore the use of computational processes in the architectural design, with a focus on robotic fabrication. The researchers here have developed a lightweight timber construction system by combining robotic prefabrication with computational design and simulation processes, and also 3D scanning technologies used in the field of engineering.
Therefore, with a focus on research driven design, the ICD and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE), along with the students of the University of Stuttgart have been exploring the power of collaboration and computation over the last few years by creating a series of stunning pavilions.
The designs of these following experimental pavilions determine the constructional and architectural potentials of robotic fabrication in timber construction on a prototypical level.
Elytra Filament Pavilion, 2016
This pavilion was installed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2016. Allowing a glimpse into the future, the pavilion draws inspiration from striking architecture of the past: the Victorian Greenhouses. While the Greenhouses showcase the experimental spirit of architects who embraced and adopted new modes of making, the installation seeks to forecast how the so-called industrial revolution of robotic systems enables the emergence of new structural and material systems.
The pavilion was the outcome of four years of research on the integration of architecture, engineering, and biomimetic principles. It explores how biological fibre systems can be transferred to architecture. The 200sqm pavilion structure is inspired by the fibrous structures of the fore-wing shells of flying beetles, known as elytra, adapting principles of lightweight construction found in nature.
The canopy constituted a fibrous tectonic system that was as architecturally expressive as it is structurally efficient to provide the visitor a unique spatial experience.
The ICD Aggregate Pavilion, 2018
This pavilion was a successful result of the research conducted in designing granular materials for architecture over the last decade.
It constitutes the first fully enclosed architectural space entirely constructed from designed granules, which lie only in loose frictional contact. These unbound granular materials show the unique property of obtaining both the stable character of a solid material and rapid re-configurability of a fluid. The pavilion is based on the idea that if custom-designed particles are deployed, granular materials can form self-supporting spatial enclosures while remaining fully reconfigurable and reusable.
The ICD Aggregate Pavilion demonstrates how designed granular materials open up a new perspective for an architecture that can be rapidly deployed and reconfigured, as well as eventually removed and reused.
The pavilion uses two types of designed particles with different behaviours - convex spheres, which can flow, and highly non-convex hexapods and dekapods, which can interlock. The convex spheres are a removable formwork, the highly non-convex hexapods and dekapods remain as a self-supporting spatial structure. Both types can be re-used in a new formation as the particles are not bound to each other. Thus, particles deployed in preceding projects have been entirely re-used.
BUGA Wood Pavilion, 2019
The BUGA Wood Pavilion celebrates a new approach to digital timber construction and formed a major architectural attraction at the central summer island of the Bundesgartenschau in Heilbronn. Its segmented wood shell was based on biological principles found in the plate skeleton of sea urchins, which have been studied by the Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) and the Institute for Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) at the University of Stuttgart for almost a decade.
As part of the project, a robotic manufacturing platform was developed for automated assembly and milling of the pavilion’s 376 bespoke hollow wood segments. This fabrication process ensured that all segments fit together with sub-millimetre precision.
The highly integrative process enabled the design and engineering of 376 unique plate segments with 17,000 different finger joints in response to multifaceted design criteria, from the scale of the overall structure down to sub-millimetre details. Without any loss of precision, this multi-scale approach allowed addressing architectural and structural considerations.
Three dynamic arches formed inviting openings in the main directions to guide visitors into the pavilion’s interior. Hosting concerts and public events, the shell created a smoothly-curved space to provide very good acoustics, generating a unique architectural atmosphere.
BUGA Fibre Pavilion, 2019
This globally unique structure at Bundesgartenschau, Heillbronn, was not only highly effective and exceptionally lightweight, but also provided a distinctive yet authentic architectural expression and an extraordinary spatial experience. The pavilion’s load-bearing structure was robotically produced only from advanced fibre composites. The BUGA Fibre Pavilion aims to transfer this fibre composite system into architecture.
The pavilion, made from more than 150,000 meters of spatially arranged glass and carbon fibres, needed to be individually designed and placed. This being extremely hard to achieve, required a novel co-design approach, where architectural design, structural engineering and robotic fabrication were developed in continuous computational feedback.
The building components were produced by robotic, coreless filament winding, a novel additive manufacturing approach pioneered and developed at the University of Stuttgart. The pavilion covered a floor area of around 400 square meters, achieving a free span of more than 23 meters.
The black carbon filament bundles, wrapping around the translucent glass fibre lattice-like flexed muscles, create a stark contrast in texture highlighted by the pavilion’s fully transparent skin.
Embedded in the wavelike landscape of the Bundesgartenschau grounds, the pavilion translated the innovation on a technical level into a unique architectural experience.
The Urbach Tower, 2019
The Urbach Tower is a unique wooden structure. The design of the tower emerged from a new self-shaping process used to produce curved wood components. This pioneering development constituted a paradigm shift in timber manufacturing from elaborate and energy-intensive mechanical forming processes that required heavy machinery to a process where the material shapes entirely by itself. This shape change was driven only by the wood’s characteristic shrinking during a decrease of moisture content.
Components for the 14m tall tower were designed and manufactured in a flat state to transform autonomously into the final, programmed curved shapes during industry-standard technical drying. This opened up new and unexpected architectural possibilities for high performance and elegant structures using a sustainable, renewable, and locally sourced building materials.
The Urbach Tower constitutes the very first structure worldwide made from self-shaped, building-scale components. It not only showcases an innovative manufacturing approach and resultant novel timber structure; but also intensifies the visitors’ spatial involvement and landscape experience by providing a striking landmark building for the City of Urbach’s contribution to the Remstal Gartenschau 2019.
(Text by Aishwarya Chodankar, intern at stirworld.com)