beyond bending: ETH zurich erects sandstone vault at venice architecture biennale beyond bending: ETH zurich erects sandstone vault at venice architecture biennale
may 26, 2016

beyond bending: ETH zurich erects sandstone vault at venice architecture biennale

beyond bending: ETH zurich erects sandstone vault at venice architecture biennale
image © ETH zurich / iwan baan

 

 

 

presented by ETH zurich at the 15th international architecture exhibition, ‘beyond bending’ is an installation conceived by block research group (prof. philippe block and tom van mele) that forms part of the biennale’s main exhibition at the arsenale. the various elements – four prototypes of vaulted floor systems, a series of graphical force diagrams, and an expansive stone vault – demonstrate how architecture can learn from the building techniques of the past. the work asserts that aesthetics and the efficient use of resources are not mutually exclusive. through the use of novel structural design approaches and digital fabrication methods, excess steel has been eliminated, allowing more humble materials — such as earth and stone — to take precedence.

venice architecture biennale beyond bending
the shape of the exhibition’s centerpiece emerges from the same structural principles as stone cathedrals
image © ETH zürich / iwan baan

 

 

 

the shape of the exhibition’s centerpiece, ‘the armadillo vault’, emerges from the same structural principles as the stone cathedrals of the past, yet is enhanced by the implementation of modern-day technologies. comprising 399 individually cut stones, unreinforced and without mortar, the vault spans 16 meters with a minimum thickness of just 5 centimeters. after its initial fabrication and assembly by the escobedo group in texas, the vault was carefully disassembled and shipped to venice, where the same team of master stonemasons reassembled it on site in just over two weeks.

venice architecture biennale beyond bending
the work comprises 399 individually cut stones, unreinforced and without mortar
image © ETH zürich / iwan baan

 

 

 

a ‘funicular floor’ also presented by the block research group consists of a 2 cm-thick shell in unreinforced concrete. ‘by activating compressive forces while externalizing tension with ties it is possible to reduce the amount of concrete used by more than 70% compared with the concrete used in a typical floor slab in bending,’ explains the design team. ‘although the complex geometry of the ribbed floor requires an expensive, two-sided mould, it becomes cost effective for repeated units and multiple casts.’ the elements of this 3D-printed and geometrically intricate structure have been mathematically analyzed to control compressive forces. the work seeks to highlight how prefabricated components are creating new possibilities in the challenge to enclose space.

venice architecture biennale beyond bending
novel structural design approaches and digital fabrication methods have been utilized
image © ETH zürich / iwan baan

 

 

 

I am delighted that our researchers will have the opportunity to present some of our flagship projects in venice,’ comments lino guzzella, president of ETH zurich. ‘ETH zurich can look back on a long tradition of architectural teaching and research, and is today taking a leading role in the field of digital fabrication. digitalisation will, without a doubt, fundamentally change the future of construction.’

venice architecture biennale beyond bending
excess steel has been eliminated, allowing more humble materials to take precedence
image © ETH zürich / iwan baan

 

 

 

for more images, follow designboom on our dedicated instagram account @venice.architecture.biennale

venice architecture biennale beyond bending
the installation was assembled in two weeks
image © ETH zürich / iwan baan

 

 

armadillo vault at the 2016 venice architecture biennale
video courtesy of block research group

 

 

project info:

 

concept: philippe block and john ochsendorf
structural design & architectural geometry: block research group, ETH zurich – philippe block, tom van mele, matthias rippmann, edyta augustynowicz, cristián calvo barentin, tomás méndez echenagucia, mariana popescu, andrew liew, anna maragkoudaki, ursula frick, robin oval, nick krouwel, noelle paulson
structural engineering: ochsendorf dejong & block – john ochsendorf, matthew dejong, philippe block, anjali mehrotra
fabrication & construction: the escobedo group – david escobedo, matthew escobedo, salvador crisanto, john curry, francisco tovar yebra, joyce i-chin chen, adam bath, hector betancourt, luis rivera, antonio rivera, carlos rivera, carlos zuniga rivera, samuel rivera, jairo rivera, humberto rivera, jesus rosales, dario rivera
with contributions by: david pigram, salvador gomis aviñó, salvador tomás márquez, jonathan dessi-olive, camilla mileto, fernando vegas lópez-manzanares, javier gómez patrocinio, benjamin ibarra sevilla, universitat politècnica de valència, fundación josé soriano ramos
lighting: lichtkompetenz, artemide
sponsors: kathy and david escobedo, ETH zurich, department of architecture, MIT, school of architecture + planning, NCCR digital fabrication, pro helvetia, artemide

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