Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has given an office in Nomi, Japan, a carbon fiber curtain that spans outwards from the roof edge in an undulating, wave-like fashion. The building, known as "fa-bo," is home to the company Komatsu Seiren who uses it as a "fabric laboratory" to manufacture, research, and exhibit new clothing materials. Kuma's renovation isn't just for aesthetics: in a first, the carbon fiber makes the building more earthquake resistant. According to Kuma's website, the fiber rods are supposedly ten times stronger than iron. In a video (see below) Kuma explains how carbon fiber was an obvious choice as it facilitated "transparent quake resistance." https://youtu.be/SIorJpr784o The feature also draws on a local technique of braiding ropes which makes it possible to "add further flexibility to the carbon fiber," something Kuma described as a "fascinating" development. "I find it very interesting that the answers were right there. Bringing together technologies that are both old and new and then mixing them together...is outstanding" he said. Although a helpful solution to counter seismic activity, fixing the rods to the building forced Kuma and his team to meticulously focus on every detail in the joinery. Kuma also believes that the carbon fiber rods have the potential to shape 21st century architecture. "We believe there is something new in this construction material," he said. "As far as materials are concerned, fibers are very strong and gentle to people....In fact, it has the potential for creating a major revolution in the world of construction," he went on to say. The rods are also employed inside the building too, allowing light to filter into spaces. On the roof, "experimental greening" uses porous ceramic panels (called Greenbiz) that are created as a byproduct of the fiber manufacturing process.
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This pavilion at London’s V&A Museum will be built by robots to resemble construction patterns of beetles
As part of the Victoria & Albert Museum's Engineering Season in London, a pavilion constructed by robots is set to steal the show. The installation, titled Elytra Filament Pavilion, was designed by German foursome Achim Menges, Thomas Auer, Moritz Dörstelmann, and Jan Knippers. It will be the group's first ever public commission in the U.K. The Engineering Season, in its inaugural year, will include a major exhibition for the esteemed Danish-British engineer, Ove Arup. The pavilion will kickstart the season and will look at the emergence of robotics being used in architecture, engineering, and construction. The structure will be constructed by robots and resemble construction principles found in nature—in particular, the forewing shells of flying beetles known as elytra. As a result, an undulating canopy will be formed from a compact carbon fiber cell structure. During the season, the pavilion will demonstrate its adaptivity, responding to data on structural behavior and circulatory patterns within the V&A's John Madejski Garden. This will be made possible by the implementation of real-time sensors in the carbon fibers themselves. The V&A Engineering Season will highlight the importance of engineering in our daily lives and consider engineers as the "unsung heroes" of design, who play a vital and creative role in the creation of our built environment. Visitors to the exhibition, can see the pavilion on display beginning May 18th while some may be lucky enough to witness the pavilion's cells being fabricated by a Kuka robot (pictured) during the season at select moments. In a press release, Achim Menges, said: “Remember the impact that the first industrial revolution here in England had on architecture, as strikingly expressed in the Victorian Greenhouse? With Elytra: Filament Pavilion, we aim to offer a glimpse of the transformative power of the fourth industrial revolution currently underway, and the way it again challenges established modes of design, engineering and making." The pavilion will be on show until November 6, 2016, with admission to the garden being free. Meanwhile, the exhibition Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design runs from June 18 through November 6, 2016. Tickets will go on sale in April 2016 and admission will be £7.
Though only one semester had elapsed since the student-designed and fabricated FIBERwave carbon fiber pavilion went up, by early 2015 IIT professor Alphonso Peluso was hungry for more. For his Digital Fabrication seminar this spring, Peluso upped the architectural ante, asking students to think in terms of a facade panel system rather than a freestanding structure. "It seemed like if we wanted to be taken seriously, we'd have to [focus on] a real-world application," he explained. With support from a number of outside experts, Peluso and his students designed and built a full-scale panel segment in a single semester. Beyond demonstrating the capacity of carbon fiber to function as a building skin, CARBONskin evidences the synergetic power of curiosity backed by experience. "The big story" behind CARBONskin, said Peluso, is the network of designers and fabricators he has become a part of since FIBERwave. Thanks to interest generated by the pavilion, several sponsors have donated materials. "Now we can keep moving forward," said Peluso. "I wasn't sure, because the crowdfunding thing is too difficult to do over and over." In addition, several leading lights in the field of carbon fiber architecture have offered technical assistance. Kreysler & Associates consulted on both FIBERwave and CARBONskin. And Greg Lynn, whose previous experiments with carbon fiber (including his RV PROTOTYPE House) served as models for CARBONskin, also shared information and advice. Lynn "has been a real inspiration for me and my students," said Peluso. "He's really ahead of the curve." Before tackling the facade panel design, the seminar enrollees—Carlos Davalos, Pablo Ferrer Franco, Jacob Harney, Raleigh Howard, Zhitao Hu, Zachary Jaffe-Notier, Aishwarya Keshav, Bowen Lu, Caio Mendonca Placido, Mina Rezaeian, and Eric Schwartzbach—gained early exposure to carbon fiber in a seasonally appropriate exercise. Knowing that students enjoy fabricating at full scale, and deciding to take advantage of the particularly cold weather, Peluso tasked the students with designing ice structures in the vein of Heinz Isler. "I saw a connection between ice structures and carbon fiber," he recalled. "With carbon fiber, you work with cloth, and use chemicals to make it structural. I thought, 'Why not use water instead, and harden the cloth into ice?'" Because the forms involved hanging cloth over supports, moreover, the students could start working with carbon fiber immediately, building small-scale prototypes of their ice structures without first completing a tutorial in CNC milling or molding techniques. Soon, however, it was time to shift focus to the facade system itself, which would be applied to a disused two-story curtain wall mockup on the IIT campus. Working in groups, the students designed and fabricated scale carbon fiber models of four facade panels. At midterm, they presented their designs to Polynt Composites' Rick Pauer. (Peluso and Pauer first met through the comments section in an AN article on FIBERwave.) Both Pauer's critique and the students' own experience were instrumental in determining a final panel configuration, which the class voted on after a design charrette. "When they make these small-scale models, they start to run into a lot of challenges; they start to understand the capabilities of carbon fiber," explained Peluso. "They use that as a feedback loop, and make adjustments based on the actual process of working with the material." Featuring a complicated topography of hills and dips punctuated by amorphous PETG windows, the design the students selected was the most complex of the those produced during the charrette. "It was exciting and intimidating at the same time," recalled Peluso. "But that's where the best projects come from, in general—people who are willing to just go for it." Meanwhile, a number of industry sponsors had volunteered to donate materials. But with the semester flying by and none of the promised supplies yet on hand, Peluso made a tough decision: he purchased (at a discount) enough cloth from Soller Composites to build three feet of the 9-foot-11-inch-tall panel at full width. (Peluso and his summer students will use material since delivered by Hexcel and Vectorply to fabricate a full-scale panel.) To work around another challenge—the fact that the molds were too large for the school's vacuum former—Peluso called on Matt Locaciato of Fiberworks. Locaciato showed the class how to use a Duratec primer (donated by Composites One) to prevent the carbon fiber from sticking to the CNC-milled wood molds. "It was our first time using the primer and it worked," said Peluso. "It was one of those magical things." The rest of the fabrication process, which involved curing the carbon fiber with West Systems epoxy resin, releasing it from the mold, CNC-trimming the panel to size, and finishing with several applications of a Duratec top coat, went smoothly. Given the speed with which a single semester passes and the nature of the course—a seminar rather than a studio—the fact that Peluso and his students completed one-third of a full-scale panel before the summer break is itself remarkable. For Peluso, the crowning achievement was the collective pride the project engendered. At the beginning of the term, he said, "I didn't really know what the outcome would be. When you have students in studio, you can count on them for a lot of hours. For an elective, they don't put in that kind of time." But by the time they joined Locaciato in the shop to prime the molds, all of the enrollees were fully committed. "At that point, the students started to become really excited about full-scale fabrication with this exotic material—you started seeing them more," recalled Peluso. "I think that's the coolest thing [about this experience]. The success is that these students came together."
British architect Amanda Levete reveals weather-responsive “forest canopy” design for Melbourne’s MPavilion 2015
Seeking to recreate the audiovisual experience of a rainforest within urban environs, London-based architect Amanda Levete has unveiled a weather-responsive forest canopy for Melbourne’s 2015 MPavilion. The second-edition annual pavilion, set to open in October at the Queen Victoria Gardens, is Australia’s answer to London’s emblematic Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. The Stirling Prize winner and founder and principal of architecture and design studio AL_A used the latest nautical engineering technology to convincingly mimic the phenomenology of flowers swaying in the wind for an experience somewhat resembling an ant’s world. Levete’s design consists of a series of bendable carbon-fiber poles supporting a roof of translucent, “seemingly fragile” petals made from composite materials she created through tête-à-têtes with a yacht fabricator. Each one measures 10–16 feet wide and is less than 0.4 inches thick. The petals moonlight as speakers that can record and playback the daily soundscape that occurs beneath the canopy. These amplifiers are then wired seamlessly through carbon-fiber poles. By night, LED lights enhance the “dappled and dreamy” ambiance. The performance space within the pavilion will be oriented to play up views of Melbourne’s skyline to the north—which could potentially include a Beyoncé-inspired tower soon—and a treeline to the east. “Our design subverts the norms of immovable. It embraces and amplifies such distinctions, so that it speaks in response to the weather and moves with the wind rather than trying to keep it at bay,” said Levete. Joining her on the project team are Australian manufacturer mouldCAM, builders Kane Construction, and engineering firm Arup. Initiated by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation with support from the City of Melbourne and the Victorian State Government, MPavilion is a free four-month program of talks, workshops and performances by creative collaborators. The inaugural pavilion by architect Sean Godsell, which attracted more than 640,000 visitors to 317 free events, featured walls that lifted up on pneumatic arms in resemblance to a “blooming flower.” Unlike the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, which stipulates that the designer must not have previously built anything in the country, MPavilion—set to run from October 6, 2015 to February 7, 2016—requires only that the candidate be an “outstanding architect.”
Long interested in the potential of composites, Los Angeles architect Greg Lynn has just launched his 42 foot long by 32 foot wide carbon fiber racing sailboat. Created by Greg Lynn Form and a team at Santa Ana–based shipbuilding company Westerly Marine, the vessel was formed using CNC-formed molds, the resulting pieces held together with high tech adhesives. It's now docked in Marina Del Rey, and awaiting a new mast (the first one was damaged) so it can officially begin sailing. Lynn has started his own company, Greg Lynn Yacht, so he could begin producing more of the aerodynamic trimarans. “I used to think that aerospace was a great place to focus my research, but it became clear that racing boats were more interesting and more affordable,” noted Lynn. He believes carbon fiber will soon be more commonplace in architecture because of its strength, lightness, and malleability. “You only put the material where you need it. There’s so much less waste,” said Lynn. His boat, for instance, varies from 120 layers of carbon fiber to about six, depending on how much is needed. It's also his secret weapon to beat his friend Frank Gehry in sailing races. We'll keep you posted on how that turns out.
Composite materials are on display in the undergraduate-built FIBERwave PAVILION.Carbon fiber’s unique properties would seem to make it an ideal building product. Untreated, carbon fiber cloth is flexible and easy to cut. After an epoxy cure, it is as hard as steel. But while the automobile and aerospace industries have made widespread use of the material, it has gone virtually untouched by the architectural profession. Alphonso Peluso and his undergraduate students at the IIT College of Architecture set out to change that with their FIBERwave PAVILION, a parametric, sea life-inspired installation built entirely of carbon fiber. "We want to make the studio an expert resource for people trying to get into carbon fiber in terms of architecture," said Peluso, whose students designed, funded, and built the pavilion this spring. "There’s a studio in Germany that’s in their second year of working with carbon fiber, but I don’t think anyone in the United States is working with it." Peluso’s studio began with an internal competition. Because the spring semester course followed a class dedicated to the exploration of various composite materials, many of the students were already familiar with the pros and cons of carbon fiber. "Toward the end of the first semester we started working with carbon fiber, and it wasn’t the greatest result," said Peluso. "But we knew we had to keep working with it. That played a big part in the selection of the design for the second semester." The students judged the submissions on constructability as well as aesthetics, he explained. "It was interesting to see the students as the pavilions were being presented, see their minds turning on: ‘Okay, this one is feasible—this is one we can actually build.’ Sometimes the design was a little better, but the overall project seemed less possible within the time frame." The winning design is based on a bivalve shell structure. The student who came up with the idea used parametric design software to explore tessellations of the single shell form. "What I was pushing them to do in the first semester was large surfaces that weren’t repetitive," said Peluso. "In the second semester, it was like they intuitively knew there had to be repetition of the unit." As a group, the class further developed the design in Rhino and Grasshopper. But while the students used parametric software to generate the shell pattern, in general FIBERwave PAVILION was "less about designing in the computer," said Peluso. "Most of it was fabrication based." The studio was hands-on from the beginning, when students were asked to submit a small-scale carbon fiber with their competition entries. They went back to Rhino to make the molds. "We had to make six molds," explained Peluso. "Even though it was one identical shell unit we had to produce 86 of these shells. When you make a composite unit, if you have one mold you can only make one shell per day." In the end, the students fabricated a total of 90 shells (including several extra to make up for any defects) over the course of about four weeks. "The actual assembly was pretty quick, the pavilion itself went together in less than a day," said Peluso. Laterally, bolts through CNC-drilled holes connect the shells at two points on either side. The overlapping rows of shells are secured vertically through bolted pin connections. The installation remained on the IIT campus for one month, after which the students disassembled it in just 25 minutes. The Chicago Composite Initiative, which provided crucial technical guidance during the project, has since erected FIBERwave PAVILION in one of its classrooms. The fundraising component of the project was as important as its design and fabrication elements. Peluso initially hoped that the carbon fiber industry would donate materials, but "we didn’t have as much luck as we anticipated because we hadn’t done anything before that would warrant their interest," he said. "That’s one of the goals of the pavilion itself, to create an awareness in architecture that this could be a great material to use." Peluso’s course did have help from West System Epoxy, which provided the curing resin at a discount. To fill the funding gap, the students ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $6,937 from a $6,500 goal. They made incentives for the donors, including 3D-printed necklaces and earrings. "I don’t think we realized how much work was going to go into that," said Peluso. To raise additional funds, the class held bake sales on campus. For Peluso, the process of designing and building FIBERwave PAVILION proved as valuable as the finished product. "The way the students collaborated made the project a success," he said. "Sometimes in group projects you get a few drifters, and some really strong ones. But all twelve students really stepped up. This wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t all come together as a group."