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ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2015/16

Updated: May 27, 2018

Inspired by sea urchin, ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion of University of Stuttgart, the laminated plywood structure is the result of a unique interdisciplinary effort by students in architecture and engineering, partnered with university faculty as well as biologists and paleontologists.

Robotic fabrication techniques are used in order to build the rounded plywood pavilion, which the robots bent the plywood pieces into shape and sew them together. This robot-assisted build is the 2015-16 version in the university’s annual pavilion series, lead by Achim Menges, head of the school’s Institute for Computational Design-ICD and Jan Knippers from the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design-ITKE.

The design draws on nature, specifically taking inspiration for its shape from sand dollars. Previous pavilions in the series have also employed bio-inspiration to explore designs inspired by shelled sea creatures. What’s different about 2015-16’s pavilion is the construction method. Students drew on research conducted with biologists from the University of Tübingen, and developed a technique using custom-laminated beech plywood in double-layered segments. Robots were used to bend the plywood pieces and hold them in place while an industrial sewing machine stitches the segments together.

Sea urchins may not have laces to hold them together, but the team says the stitching is representative of the connective tissue that marine creatures have. “It was concluded that the performance of these segmented lightweight structures relies not only on the arrangement of its individual calcite plates, but also on the geometric morphology of a double layered system and the differentiation within the material,” explained the team.

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