This year’s ICD/ITKE research pavilion from the University of Stuttgart takes inspiration from a water spider’s web
The Institute for Computational Design (ICD) and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) continue their series of research pavilions with the new ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2014-15 at the University of Stuttgart.
The 2014-15 pavilion demonstrates the architectural potential of a novel building method inspired by the underwater nest construction of the water spider. Through a novel robotic fabrication process an initially flexible pneumatic formwork is gradually stiffened by reinforcing it with carbon fibres from the inside. The resulting lightweight fibre composite shell forms a pavilion with unique architectural qualities, while at the same time being a highly material-efficient structure.
These building prototypes explore application potentials of novel computational design, simulation and fabrication processes in architecture. This prototypical project is the result of one and a half years of development by researchers and students of architecture, engineering and natural sciences.
The design concept is based on the study of biological construction processes for fibre-reinforced structures. These processes are relevant for applications in architecture, as they do not require complex formwork and are capable of adapting to the varying demands of the individual constructions. The biological processes form customized fibre-reinforced structures in a highly material-effective and functionally integrated way. In this respect the web building process of the diving bell water spider proved to be of particular interest. Thus the web construction process of water spiders was examined and the underlying behavioural patterns and design rules were analysed, abstracted and transferred into a technological fabrication process.
The water spider spends most of its life under water, for which it constructs a reinforced air bubble to survive. First, the spider builds a horizontal sheet web, under which the air bubble is placed. In a further step the air bubble is sequentially reinforced by laying a hierarchical arrangement of fibres from within. The result is a stable construct that can withstand mechanical stresses, such as changing water currents, to provide a safe and stable habitat for the spider. This natural production process shows how adaptive fabrication strategies can be utilized to create efficient fibre-reinforced structures.
For the transfer of this biological formation sequence into a building construction application, a process was developed in which an industrial robot is placed within an air supported membrane envelope made of ETFE. This inflated soft shell is initially supported by air pressure, though, by robotically reinforcing the inside with carbon fibre, it is gradually stiffened into a self-supporting monocoque structure. The carbon fibres are only selectively applied where they are required for structural reinforcement, and the pneumatic formwork is simultaneously used as a functionally integrated building skin. This results in a resource efficient construction process.
The ICD / ITKE Research Pavilion 2014-15 serves as a demonstrator for advanced computational design, simulation and manufacturing techniques and shows the innovative potential of interdisciplinary research and teaching. The prototypical building articulates the anisotropic character of the fibre composite material as an architectural quality and reflects the underlying processes in a novel texture and structure. The result is not only a particularly material-effective construction, but also an innovative and expressive architectural demonstrator.
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