The team at University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design in Germany has used computational design and robotic manufacturing to create a 250 square metre beech wood shell, made up of 243 geometric plates that join together through more than 7,600 finger joints.
This building, named the Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall, has been computer designed, robot manufactured and is made up of 243 plates that all measure just 50 millimetres thick.
Funded by the European Union and the state of Baden-Württemberg, the building is the first to have its primary structure entirely made of robotically prefabricated beech plywood plates.
The newly developed timber construction offers not only innovative architectural possibilities but also load baring abilities.
[pullquote]"In comparison to man-made constructions, natural biological constructions exhibit a significantly higher degree of geometric complexity,"[/pullquote] explains Achim Menges, a professor at the Institute for Computational Design.
The project demonstrates the new opportunities that arise from the integration of computational design, simulation and fabrication methods.
The development of the Exhibition Hall’s complex plate structure is made possible through advanced computational design and simulation methods.
The exhibition hall's organic shape was the result of computational design, a process that uses software to find the optimal shape of a structure.
Instead of drawing each plate manually, the building's constraints and parameters are incorporated into software designed by the ICD team.
The software then uses algorithms to calculate an optimal shape. These allow the generation, simulation and optimisation of biomimetic construction principles in architecture.
This project offered the possibility to include material characteristics and fabrication parameters in the design process.
"We had all the input one can have, as we developed all the required software and codes ourselves," Mr Menges says.
"It is incredibly liberating to not depend on the 'black-box logic' of given software, but rather think of computational processes as 'designable.' This allows us to explore design aspects that would otherwise lie outside of what we can engage with as architects."
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The prefabrication of the plate shell elements took 3 weeks.
The building has structural stability through the development of the robotically fabricated 7,600 individual finger joints.
These joints are interlocking and were one of the more important challenges and innovations of the project.
Still visible in the building’s interior, the finger joint connections resemble the sand dollar’s microscopic connections and are only efficiently producible with a seven-axis robotic fabrication setup.
The industrial robot’s kinematic flexibility is an essential requirement for the production of such complex and individual geometries.
Consequently, the fact that, similar to the sand dollar’s plate skeleton, all plywood plates are geometrically unique, poses no additional difficulties.