ARCHITECTURE: ICD/ITKE Pavilion
The University of Stuttgart has the most collaborative program between architecture and engineering I have ever seen. Aching Menges and his ICD group in Germany collaborate with their engineering partners known as ITKE. Together, they build a pavilion every year that pushes the boundaries of material science and digital fabrication to a whole new level, and a whole new scale.
The pavilions look to nature to solve that burning question: how do we build, now that we can build anything? The Digital Turn, a term coined by Mario Carpo, has given us tools of unimaginable potential, and they're just sitting there waiting to be used. 3D Printers, giant robot arms, mobile & desktop computing, carbon fiber; these pavilions do it all.
The latest iteration, done for the 2015-2016 school year evolved out of a previous study of sea urchins and the microbiology of their structure. From this knowledge and information the group devised a way to mimic this cell structure to make a shell that was ultra-lightweight.
The pavilion is made of thin sheets of plywood that are bent in order to make the structure more rigid. KUKA Robot arms bend and shape the plywood to specifications provided by a computer. Once the pieces are bent, they are cut precisely and sown together to make larger components. These components are then assembled on site. The entire process takes a fraction of the time to build and assemble than a typical pavilion of the same size. The ultra lightweight components can be carried by hand, and above all else, the pavilion is stunning.
The process is as automated as they possibly can make it, developing and using complex algorithms along every step of the way. Algorithms that design the structure, algorithms that imbue it with a structural logic, algorithms that allow it to be fabricated and still other algorithms that control the fabrication.
A lot of time and work goes in to the fabrication of these pavilions, and it sure shows.