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tallest 3D printed tower in the world to open in swiss alps as concert and exhibition venue

3D-printed White tower surfaces using soft concrete

 

The construction of the four-floor White Tower in the remote village of Mulegns in the Swiss Alps began on February 1st, 2024, with the introduction of 3D-printed columns of the Tor Alva architecture. The first 8 columns of the lower floor are being printed by a robot that extrudes soft concrete into multilayered print paths at ETH in Zurich, resulting in a series of joint-based, twisting hollow columns for the White Tower. The 3D-printed architecture requires no framework, while the necessary steel reinforcement is inserted in the robotic production process. The White Tower is constructed as modular and can be rebuilt at another location after staying in Mulegns for five years.

3D printed white tower
front view of White Tower in Mulegns | images courtesy of Michael Hansmeyer & Benjamin Dillenburger (unless stated)

 

 

The White Tower, or Tor Alva in Mulegns, Swiss Alps, is designed by architects Benjamin Dillenburger and Michael Hansmeyer. The Digital Building Technologies group of ETH Zurich is developing the tower’s technology in collaboration with the Institute of Structural Analysis and Design (CSBD) and the Institute of Building Materials (PCBM) in the context of the National Competence Center Digital Fabrication. Based on the timeline that Michael Hansmeyer detailed, the 3D-printed White Tower is set to have its columns assembled in May 2024, with a June 2024 expected date of Tor Alva’s opening.

3D printed white tower
the construction of the White Tower in the remote village of Mulegns in the Swiss Alps began on February 1st, 2024

 

 

Inside the process of the 3D-printed white tower

 

3D printing has become the main tool that realizes the architecture of the White Tower. Soft concrete emerges as the key ingredient, and as the robot spurts thin layers of soft concrete through a nozzle, it instinctively directs itself to form geometric, hollow columns until it reaches a certain height. The material, being soft concrete, is malleable enough to bond to form homogeneous components. As soon as it hardens, and which it does quite quickly, it supports the successive freshly layered extrusion. The design team says that by saving mass and cement, the 3D printing process can also entail a reduction in the carbon emissions generated during production.

3D printed white tower
3D concrete printing of columns in the robotic fabrication laboratory, ETH Zurich | image by R. Masallam

 

 

At 30 meters high, including the base, the White Tower may take home the crown for being the tallest 3D-printed building in the world. Another feature that the design team is excited to highlight comes through the absence of the formwork, given that the concrete is not poured in 3D printing but rather layered in extruded strips by a robot. Adding to this, dismantling the 3D-printed White Tower can be easy. The design team has this in their minds since they might think of rebuilding Tor Alva someplace else after serving its five-year life in the Swiss Alps. It helps that the architecture has a modular design that allows the individual components to be easily assembled and dismantled, and be built again using removable screws instead of adhesives.

3D printed white tower
test assembly of level 1 in the robotic fabrication laboratory, ETH Zurich

 

 

3D-printed Tor Alva as an artistic and cultural space

 

Diving into the project’s background, the 3D-printed White Tower or Tor Alva is expected to rise at 30 meters along the Julien mountain in the remote village of Mulegns, Switzerland. It is designed for Fundaziun Origen, functioning as a space for art installations, music, and theater performances. The recently printed hollow columns echo the central interior of the architecture, with the facade being windowless and open, adorned by the criss-cross structure natural to the 3D printing process. The White Tower presents itself as the byproduct of computational design, digital fabrication, structural engineering, and materials science, gradually emerging from the use of soft concrete extrusion.

3D printed white tower
3D concrete printing of columns in the robotic fabrication laboratory, ETH Zurich | image by R. Masallam

 

 

From the get-go, the 3D-printed White Tower already embodies an installative character. If this springs as the first thought, then treating it as a venue for intimate concerts, art affairs, and cultural mediation becomes complementary. Glancing at its design, Tor Alva consists of 32 branching columns that wrap around a series of abstract and atmospheric rooms. From the ground, visitors ascend through the vertical stairs, and once they reach the top floor, the vaulted concert venue greets them alongside the panoramic horizon across the Julier valley. The design team says that the White Tower’s characteristics are reminiscent of the craftsmanship of the master builders of the Baroque era in Grison, brought to life again by 3D printing.

3D printed white tower
test assembly of level 1 in the robotic fabrication laboratory, ETH Zurich

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the 3D-printed White Tower can be rebuilt at another location after its five-year life in Mulegns

3D printed white tower
Assembly of an early demonstrator in Mulegns | image by Eleni Skevaki

3D printed white tower
interior view of level 2 colonnade

3D printed white tower
interior view of level 4 performance space

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3D-printed White Tower viewed from Julier mountain pass

project info:

 

name: White Tower / Tor Alva

architects: Benjamin Dillenburger, Michael Hansmeyer

technology: Digital Building Technologies of ETH Zurich, Institute of Structural Analysis and Design, Institute of Building Materials

location: Mulegns, Switzerland, on the Julier Pass

opening: Summer 2024

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