Combining construction practices derived from nature with modern computer technology, a lightweight pavilion in Germany has been built from robotically-produced fibre composites.
The University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) and Institute for Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) have again teamed up to design and fabricate a pavilion made from advanced fibre composites with the help of robots. Embedded within the landscape of a park in the German city of Heilbronn, the structure combines cutting-edge computational technologies with constructional principles found in nature.
The Buga Fibre Pavilion builds on years of biomimetic research in architecture carried out by the ICD and the ITKE at the University of Stuttgart. The pavilion’s load-bearing structure has been robotically produced using only advanced fibre composites. This ensures that the structure is not only exceptionally lightweight, but that it also provides a distinctive architectural expression and an extraordinary spatial experience.
“In biology, most load-bearing structures are fibre composites,” explained the design team. “They are made from fibres, as for example cellulose, chitin or collagen, and a matrix material that supports them and maintains their relative position. The astounding performance and unrivalled resource efficiency of biological structures stem from these fibrous systems. Their organisation, directionality and density are finely tuned and locally varied in order to ensure that material is only placed where it is needed.”
The pavilion aims to transfer this biological principle of load-adapted and thus highly differentiated fibre composite systems into architecture. “Manmade composites, such as the glass- or carbon-fibre-reinforced plastics that were used for this building, are ideally suited for such an approach because they share their fundamental characteristics with natural composites,” the team continued. “Only a few years ago, this pavilion would have been impossible to design or build.”
The pavilion is made from more than 150,000 metres of spatially arranged glass- and carbon-fibres, which all need to be individually designed and placed. The building components are produced by robotic, coreless filament winding, where fibrous filaments are freely placed between two rotating winding scaffolds by a robot.
During this process, the predefined shape of the building component emerges only from the interaction of the filaments, eliminating the need for any mould or core. During manufacturing, a lattice of translucent glass fibres is generated, onto which the black carbon fibres are placed where they are structurally needed.
This results in highly load-adapted components with a distinct architectural appearance. The black carbon filament bundles, wrapping around the translucent glass fibre lattice, create a stark contrast in texture that is highlighted by the pavilion’s fully transparent skin.
The pavilion covers a floor area of around 400 square metres and achieves a free span of more than 23 metres. It is enclosed by a fully transparent, mechanically pre-stressed ETFE membrane. The primary load bearing structure is made entirely from 60 bespoke fibre composite components and is approximately five times lighter than a more conventional steel structure.
Elaborate testing procedures required for full approval showed that a single fibrous component can take up to 250 kilonewtons of compression force, or the weight of more than 15 cars. Opening on April 17, 2019, the pavilion is centrally located on the summer island of the Bundesgartenschau 2019 and will house an exhibition titled Zukunftskarusell.
Images © ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart