The humble sea urchin is the inspiration for an amazing pavilion designed by researchers and students at the University of Stuttgart in Germany. The first-of-its-kind design for 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. In order to build the rounded plywood pavilion, the team relied on some help from robots, which bent the plywood pieces into shape.
This robot-assisted build is the latest 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 structure is a canopy of connected plywood bubbles, molded by robots and stitched together with a giant industrial sewing machine. “The pavilion is the first of its kind to employ industrial sewing of wood elements on an architectural scale,” said the team.
The ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2015/16 design draws on nature, specifically taking inspiration for its shape from sand dollars. Previous pavilions in the series have also employed biomimicry to explore designs inspired by shelled sea creatures. What’s different about this year’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.
Images via ICD/ITKE