The Institute for Computational Design (ICD) and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) of the University of Stuttgart have constructed another bionic research pavilion. The project is part of a successful series of research pavilions which showcase the potential of novel design, simulation and fabrication processes in architecture.
The project was planned and constructed within one and a half years by students and researchers within a multi-disciplinary team of biologists, paleontologists, architects and engineers. The focus of the project is a parallel bottom-up design strategy for the biomimetic investigation of natural fiber composite shells and the development of novel robotic fabrication methods for fiber reinforced polymer structures.
The aim was the development of a winding technique for modular, double layered fiber composite structures, which reduces the required formwork to a minimum while maintaining a large degree of geometric freedom. Therefore, functional principles of natural lightweight structures were analyzed and abstracted through the development of a custom robotic fabrication method, these principles were transferred into a modular prototype pavilion.
MATERIAL AND STRUCTURAL LOGIC
Based on the differentiated trabeculae morphology and the individual fiber arrangements, a double layered modular system was generated for implementation in an architectural prototype. Glass and carbon fiber reinforced polymers were chosen as building material, due to their high performance qualities and the potential to generate differentiated material properties through fiber placement variation. Together with their unrestrained moldability, fiber reinforced polymers are suitable to implement the complex geometries and material organizations of the abstracted natural construction principles.
ROBOTIC WINDING PROCESS
For the fabrication of the geometrically unique, double curved modules a robotic coreless winding method was developed, which uses two collaborating 6-axis industrial robots to wind fibers between two custom-made steel frame effectors held by the robots.
This fiber–fiber interaction generates doubly curved surfaces from initially straight deposited fiber connections. The order in which the resin impregnated fiber bundles (rovings) are wound onto the effectors is decisive for this process and is described through the winding syntax. A first glass fiber layer defines the elements geometry and serves as formwork for the subsequent carbon fiber layers.
These carbon fiber layers act as structural reinforcement and are individually varied through the fibers anisotropic arrangement. The individual layout of the carbon fibers is defined by the forces acting on each component which are derived from FE Analysis of the global structure. The generated winding syntax is transferred to the robots and allows the automatic winding of the 6 fiber layers.
In total 36 individual elements were fabricated, whose geometries are based on structural principles abstracted from the beetle elytra. Each of them has an individual fiber layout which results in a material efficient load-bearing system. The biggest element has a 2.6 m diameter with a weight of only 24.1 kg.
The research pavilion covers a total area of 50 m² and a volume of 122 m³ with a weight of 593 kg. The overall geometry reacts to site-specific conditions of the public space around the university building in close proximity to the park. At the same time it demonstrates the morphologic adaptability of the system, by generating more complex spatial arrangements than a simple shell structure.
Altogether the research pavilion shows how the computational synthesis of biological structural principles and the complex reciprocities between material, form and robotic fabrication can lead to the generation of innovative fiber composite construction methods. At the same time the multidisciplinary research approach does not only lead to performative and material efficient lightweight constructions, it also explores novel spatial qualities and expands the tectonic possibilities of architecture.
Location: Keplerstraße 11, Stuttgart, Germany
Project: ICD Institute for Computational Design (Prof. Achim Menges), ITKE Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (Prof. Jan Knippers)
Area: 50 sqm
Photographs: Ronald Halbe, ICD-ITKE