Concrete is a ubiquitous building material, applied to the bulk of contemporary construction projects. While the sedimentary aggregate is commonly used due to its impressive compressive strength, it remains a brittle material subject to damage or failure during extreme environmental events such as earthquakes. In response to this inherent weakness, a team of researchers based out of Purdue University’s Lyles School of Civil Engineering comprising professors Jan Olek, Pablo Zavattieri, Jeffrey Youngblood, and Ph.D. candidate Mohamadreza Moini has developed a 3-D-printed cement paste that actually gains strength when placed under pressure. The project, initiated in August 2016 with funding from the National Science Foundation, looked towards the natural durability and flexibility of arthropod shells. “The exoskeletons of arthropods have crack propagation and toughening mechanisms,” said Pablo Zavattieri, both of which can be reproduced “in 3-D-printed cement paste.” For the prototype, the research team cycled through a number of geometric configurations, including compliant, honeycomb, auxetic, and Bouligand designs. Each of these formats responds to external pressures differently; a compliant design acts as a spring under stress while the Bouligand boosts crack resistance. To assess the structural qualities of each prototype during and following testing, the team relied on micro-CT scanners. Through the use of this tool, the team was able to identify weaknesses present within the 3-D-printed objects, improving upon them with successive prototypes. What are the implications of the Purdue team’s 3-D-printed cement paste? In boosting the flexibility of concrete construction, the cement paste could add an extra factor of safety for the brittle material within conditions of environmental extremes, dampening the impact of momentary shocks. Admittedly, Zavattieri noted that the “minimum amount of material was used to prove the hypothesis.” However, there is no significant engineering hurdle in scaling up the technology to a potentially full-scale prototype and its ultimate application in architectural design.
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With the opening of OMA’s Torre for Fondazione Prada, tours of midcentury Villa Borsani, and (a few days late to the Design Week party and thus not included here) the completion of Zaha Hadid Architects’ Generali Tower, Milan Design Week 2018 was exceptionally steeped in architecture. There was the usual abundance of collaborations with architects, such as Alejandro Aravena for Artemide, John Pawson for Swarovski, and David Rockwell’s The Diner with Cosentino and Design Within Reach, but it was the host of architectural installations and interventions that took it over the top. Here are ten memorable architectural moments of Milan Design Week 2018. Garage Traversi The rationalist 1938 Garage Traversi in Milan’s Montenapoleone District received a facade makeover by Studio Job for Milan Design Week. The Pop Art mural comes in advance of the building’s renovation into a “luxury hub” by British private equity fund Hayrish. The reinforced concrete building, originally designed by architect Giacomo de Min, sits on an odd lot, leading to it being built like a fan and resulting in its popularity. The iconic building has been unused for 15 years, but has retained its reputation as a cultural and architectural landmark. U-JOINT PlusDesign Gallery hosted an immensely satisfying architectural exhibition on joints. The group show offered joints of all sizes, materials, and shapes to demonstrate its importance in objects and buildings alike. Over 50 designers, studios, and research institutes, including Alvar Aalto, Aldo Bakker, Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby, Konstantin Grcic, Jonathan Nesci, Cecilie Manz, Self-Assembly Lab MIT, and Jonathan Olivares, displayed prototypes and products. My Dream Home by Piero Lissoni “My Dream Home,” an installation by Piero Lissoni, stacks twelve shipping containers vertically to host an exhibition by photographers Elisabetta Illy and Stefano Guindani of photos taken in Haiti alongside drawings by Haitian children of their dream homes. Lissoni chose to build with containers as an inexpensive, sustainable option that could potentially be used for multi- and single-family homes in Haiti. Altered States Snarkitecture is no stranger to Milan Design Week installations. For its most recent, the firm partnered with Caesarstone to create “Altered States” inside the 19th-century Palazzo dell'Ufficio Elettorale di Porta Romana. The installation examined water in its three forms (ice, liquid, steam/vapor) and the way it appears in nature (glacier, river, geyser) through a collection of kitchen islands made from Caesarstone’s quartz surface material. Villa Borsani In advance of an exhibition curated by Norman Foster and Osvaldo Borsani’s grandson, the Villa Borsani opened to visitors after being newly decorated by curator Ambra Medda, who collaborated with various artists to bring in floral arrangements, scents, and a playlist that enliven the midcentury villa. James Wines X Foscarini James Wines/SITE collaborated with Foscarini to make the “Reverse Room,” a slanting black box that houses a limited edition set of lights called "The Lightbulb Series." Wines relied on his research on subconscious spatial expectations to keep visitors constantly surprised. “This series comes from the idea of disrupting the classic design of incandescent light bulbs,” Wines said in a statement. “An idea that suggests a critical reflection on the absolutely non-iconic forms of modern LED lamps. The concept, implemented by Foscarini, stems from research on the spontaneous way people identify with forms and functions of everyday objects. In this case, the light bulbs merge crack, shatter, and burn out, overturning any expectations.” Fondazione Prada On April 18, the Fondazione Prada completed the latest, and last, building in its 200,000-square-foot Milan complex. Torre, designed by Rem Koolhaas, Chris van Duijn, and Federico Pompignoli of OMA, is wrapped in white concrete and nearly 197 feet tall. This form offers a two-fold experience: From the exterior, the spare, modern block contrasts with the more ornate buildings of the campus (the Italianate-style entry building, gold-painted tower, and the mirror-clad theater, among others) and from the interior, sweeping views of the surrounding industrial neighborhood. At the back of the building, an exterior elevator core is intersected by a diagonal form that connects the Torre to the adjacent Deposito gallery. The elevator's interior is painted an electrifying hot pink, framing the panorama of the campus in madcap fashion. The gallery's floors, currently occupied by the exhibition Atlas, are similarly eclectic. Floor plans alternate between trapezoidal and rectangular and the ceiling heights increase from about 9 feet on the first floor to 26 feet on the top floor, with glowing pink staircases in between. Even so, the space complements rather than competes with massive, immersive installations from heavy-hitting artists such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons. (Although the maze-like entrance to Carsten Höller's Upside Down Mushroom is so dark, this writer ran into a wall.) 3D Housing 05 Massimiliano Locatelli | CLS Architetti collaborated with Arup, Italcementi, and Cybe to 3-D print a 1,076-square-foot house on-site. The house, located in front of the Piazza Cesare Beccaria, demonstrated that 3-D printing could be used as a sustainable and feasible construction method. The house was 3-D printed from a recycled concrete that, in the event the house is destroyed, could be reused to make a new structure. Lexus Design Award This year marked two firsts for the 2018 Lexus Design Award (LDA) Grand Prix Winner: It was the first time an American design team took home the prize, and the first time a workshop, rather than a product, won. New York design research studio, Extrapolation Factory, “studies the future” and helps communities create and experience their cities’ futures through workshops and activities. “We all have a vested interest in the future. But how many people have taken a class in futures?” asked Extrapolation Factory cofounder Elliott P. Montgomery. “We’ve had classes in history, math, science, but we are never taught how to think about the future. And this seems like a glaring omission in our country’s education.” Montgomery and his cofounder Christopher Woebken conducted a workshop at the Queens Museum and presented a video alongside a few props as their LDA presentation. The unusual urban planning project garnered praise for its focus on community and its exploration of society, technology, and environment. “It’s completely different than the other participants because it isn’t product-based. It is about education and using design as a way to engage with people, and given the context of the theme, CO-, we felt that was incredibly important,” said Simone Farresin of Formafantasma, who mentored the Extrapolation Factory for the LDA. MINI Living House London-based architecture firm Studiomama created four modular co-living spaces for MINI. Each module had its own color and built-in furniture “totems” that distinguish the space’s personality. The four units share communal spaces, including a kitchen (shown above), a dining area, a gym, and home theater space.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) recently announced a new crop of museum acquisitions that includes a variety of multimedia works by several Los Angeles–area architects and designers. Included in the set of new acquisitions, according to LACMA Unframed, is a neon lamp designed by Jimenez Lai of Bureau Spectacular. The so-called Scribble lamp is an outgrowth of the firm’s Tower of Twelve Stories installation at the 2016 Coachella music festival. The fixture is made up of a singular light tube that has been bent and folded to look like a bit of “neon gibberish” drawn by Lai. The circular light is designed so that it touches down at four points, relying on similar structural principles as those explored in the Coachella tower. Other examples of Lai’s work are also featured in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Architect Jenny Wu’s Catena necklace, a work designed in Autodesk Maya, made from stainless steel-infiltrated with bronze, and fabricated using binder jet 3D-printing, was also chosen for LACMA’s permanent collection. Wu is a principal and co-founder of architecture firm Oyler Wu Collaborative and is also the creative force behind the 3-D-printed jewelry outfit LACE that fabricated the Catena necklace. Wu’s work with LACE began in 2014 as an offshoot stemming from a one-off production and has grown in the years since into a full line of 3-D-printed works meant to act as “architecture on the body,” according to the architect. The signature LACE Collection utilizes advanced 3-D-printing techniques like selective laser sintering and wax pattern 3-D-printing to create intricate works in nylon, steel, and precious metals. Describing the highlighted jewelry line, Wu explained that LACE was a continuation of the “experimentation in fabrication, material research, and design innovation” that drives her architectural work. Wu added, “I think this just propels us to keep pushing what we do, whether it’s [designing] an installation, a building, or a piece of jewelry.” Oyler Wu also has work featured in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Art. Architect Elena Manferdini’s recent project titled Building Portraits has also been acquired by LACMA. The multimedia project is an exploration of the digital weaving of architectural elements. The museum is collecting two groups of works associated with a multi-part project, including a set of two physical models, five drawings, a silk scarf, and a rug. For the project, Manferdini utilized digital weaving technologies to create graphic geometric prints that were then converted into the various textile forms and ultimately extrapolated into building facades. Explaining the project via email, Manferdini said, “The pieces acquired by the museum delineate my work’s progression from scripted drawings to textiles to building facades. It is a snapshot of my process of creation and the way in which certain ideas and techniques come to fruition in the field of design and architecture.” The architect added, “Being part of this collection gives to the work the exposure through time to a larger audience and can have tremendous value for research.” LACMA also acquired works by sculptor Ben Medansky, L.A. arts collective The Machine Project, sculptor Adam Silverman, artist David Wiseman, artists the Haas Brothers, and graphic designer Ed Fella.
In 2014, DUS Architects, an Amsterdam-based architecture firm that focuses on what it calls, “public architecture,” began researching a 3-D printed Canal House that'd be situated along the Buiksloter canal in an industrial area in Amsterdam. Two weeks ago, it unveiled a micro version of the Canal House called the Urban Cabin on the site. Although the Canal House will have 13 rooms, the Urban Cabin is a mere 86-square-feet. The purpose-built printer DUS is using both for the cabin and the Canal House is called the KamerMaker (Dutch for “room maker”). The team plans to print the facade first and then the rooms in sequential order so that it can learn and test as the process unfolds. The 3-D printed cabin features a bed that folds into a seat during the day, two windows, and a bathtub (also 3-D printed) that sits outside. The house rests on a concrete infill pad that extends out from the structure to provide a small outdoor space and entryway. But the most impressive aspect of the building is its sustainable, bioplastic facade in a honeycomb pattern that offers extra structural stability. DUS developed this printable bioplastic—which uses linseed oil as its main component—specifically for the structures with consumer manufacturing company Henkel. When it is no longer needed, the bioplastic can be shredded and re-printed into something else, an aspect the firm hopes can help promote 3-D printing for use in disaster relief or temporary housing efforts. For now, though, the cabin is used for research and development for the firm, which plans to unveil the full-sized Canal House in 2017. It is also available for short-term rent to further promote the concept of 3-D printed housing. More information can be found here.