This year's research pavilion designed and built by students and researchers at the ICD and ITKE in Stuttgart was inspired by underwater nest structures of water spiders. As with the previous pavilions that came out of the ICD-ITKE workshop, this lightweight temporary structure was built using a giant robotic arm that weaved fiber composite materials over a flexible formwork, but this time, the temporary formwork became an elegant part of the structure.
Water spiders spend most of their life under water. They don’t have gills but they do have a really neat way of breathing. They construct a reinforced air bubble by spinning the web on the water surface and collect air bubbles to fill it from underneath. They enter the bubble every time they need air. The bubble is a stable structure that can withstand mechanical stresses and strong water currents.
The team of students and researchers decided to translate this adaptive fabrication strategy into architecture. With previous pavilions, the teams removed the formwork once the materials hardened, but this time, the formwork became part of the final structure. An industrial robot was placed within an air supported membrane envelope made of ETFE. This inflated soft shell is initially supported by air pressure, but by robotically reinforcing the inside with carbon fiber, it is gradually stiffened into a self-supporting structure.
During the fabrication process, the gradual stiffening of the skin was recorded via an embedded sensor system and integrated into the robot control in real time. This provided constant feedback of the actual production conditions.