The humble little sand dollar served as the inspiration for this amazing new pavilion in Stuttgart, Germany. Designed through a collaboration between the Institute for Computational Design (ICD), the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE), and students from the University of Stuttgart, the wooden research pavilion is an exploration of biological principles translated into architecture. Thin sheets of plywood were laser cut and pieced together into the polygonal plywood structure. Finger joints, which are seen as the technical equivalent of a sand dollar's morphology, are used to connect the parts together, resulting in an incredible temporary pavilion located in a public square at the university.
For its second year in a row, the ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion is a chance to explore architecture through computational design. This year, inspiration for the temporary pavilion came from sea urchins and more specifically, the sand dollar. The plate skeleton morphology of the sand dollar is composed of a modular system of polygonal plates that are linked together at the edges by finger-like calcite protrusions. This system of joints and plates allows the sand dollar to have a high load bearing capacity. It is because of this understanding of the sand dollar that the researchers decided to use it as the basis for their most recent design.
In collaboration with students from the university, the ICD/ITKE developed a computational model of polygonal modular elements joined together. Three plate edges meet together at just one point, allowing for normal and shear forces but no bending moments. This geometry allows for large lightweight structures to be built from simple plywood. In fact, the entire pavilion is constructed out of 6.5 mm plywood sheets and is so light it had to be fastened down to the ground to avoid being blown away. The university’s robotic fabrication system was used to cut out the plates and their finger joints for a total of 850 geometrically different components.
The pavilion was assembled in a public square between the University of Stuttgart’s buildings and consists of two distinct spatial entities. One large opening exposes a large interior space with a porous inner layer, while a smaller interstitial space enveloped between the two layers exhibits the constructive logic of the double layer shell. The modular bionic pavilion is at the forefront and intersection of architectural research and teaching.
Images ©Roland Halbe courtesy of the ICD