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Understanding the Basic Principles of Organic Design

Credit: ICD/ITKE RESEARCH PAVILLON 2013-14

The ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion developed by a multidisciplinary team at the Institute for Computational Design. In recent years, architects, biologists, and engineers have been thinking about the possible connection the architectural field can have with living entities, such as insects or trees. Most of the time, architects design projects based on the imitation of natural forms. This imitation takes place in a field where there haven’t been previous studies about the organism being imitated, its basic organic functions, and its interaction with the environment. This concept is called biomorphism. When you add in concepts such as biomimicry and biomimetics as theoretical foundations, the design process is focused on the understanding of the functions of the project, how its functions and structure can be solved by studying a specific organism, and, in some supported research projects, how it can be built with parametric design. WATCH: Biomimicry and Landscape Architecture The ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion was developed by a multidisciplinary team at the Institute for Computational Design, which is part of the faculty of architecture and urban planning of the University of Stuttgart. The team included architects, engineers, biologists, and paleontologists. The pavilion was part of a research project focused on demonstrating the potential of novel design, simulations, and fabrication processes in architecture, based on nature and parametric design.

From Beetles to Architecture: The Design Process

  Considering the context and the functions to which the pavilion would respond, architects were concerned about the living organism that can be the foundation to develop biomimetic design. All these, along with the problems that Stuttgart’s weather can cause, forced the architects to consider the study of the Elytron, a type of hardened forewing that certain types of insects possess, including beetles.

Comparison of internal elytron architecture in flying and flightless beetle. Credit: © Dr.Thomas van de Kamp, Prof. Dr. Hartmut Greven

Comparison of internal elytron architecture in flying and flightless beetle. Credit: © Dr.Thomas van de Kamp, Prof. Dr. Hartmut Greven

The Elytron structure can be a suitable role model for highly material-efficient construction, creating a lightweight structure. Its unique capacity and lightness relies on the geometric morphology of a double-layered system and the mechanical properties of the natural fiber composite. This structure consists of chitin fibers that create a protein matrix, allowing for locally differentiated material properties.
SEM scans of Potato Beetle (leptinotarsa decimlineata) elytron scanned for the ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2013-14 by Prof. Oliver Betz at University of Tuebingen. Credit: © Prof. Oliver Betz, Anne Buhl, University of Tübingen

SEM scans of Potato Beetle (leptinotarsa decimlineata) elytron scanned for the ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2013-14 by Prof. Oliver Betz at University of Tuebingen. Credit: © Prof. Oliver Betz, Anne Buhl, University of Tübingen

Once the case of study was defined and the architectural program of the pavilion established, the process of creating the structure began under the cooperation of the ANKA Synchrotron Radiation Facility and the Institute for Photon Science and Synchrotron Radiation at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). The designers used three-dimensional models of different beetle Elytra structures through micro-computed tomography.
Elytra cross sections based on microcomputed tomography scans for the ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2013-14 by Dr. Thomas van de Kamp at the ANKA Synchrotron Radiation Facility of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) Credit: © ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart

Elytra cross sections based on microcomputed tomography scans for the ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2013-14 by Dr. Thomas van de Kamp at the ANKA Synchrotron Radiation Facility of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) Credit: © ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart

With this, the research team had the opportunity to study the complicated structures of the beetle shell. This study confirmed the presence of the double-layered structure that is connected by column-like, curved support elements — a structure called trabeculae. “The fiber layout within a trabecula merges the upper and lower shell segments with continuous fibers. The distribution and geometric articulation of the trabecula is highly differentiated throughout the beetle shell.”
Correlation of fiber layout and structural morphology in trabeculae. Credit: © Dr. Thomas van de Kamp, Prof. Dr. Hartmut Greven | Prof. Oliver Betz, Anne Buhl, University of Tübingen

Correlation of fiber layout and structural morphology in trabeculae. Credit: © Dr. Thomas van de Kamp, Prof. Dr. Hartmut Greven | Prof. Oliver Betz, Anne Buhl, University of Tübingen

In nature, each structure has a lot of variations and, because of this, the research team studied multiple flying beetles in order to identify these variations and establish the rules for structural morphologies to be reproduced artificially.
Finite element analysis of global force flows and their transfer into structural carbon fiber reinforcements. Credit: © ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart

Finite element analysis of global force flows and their transfer into structural carbon fiber reinforcements. Credit: © ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart

Subsequently, in order to recreate the same properties of the Elytron structure, the research team had to develop a new robotic fabrication method for fiber-reinforced polymer structures. To do this, the team used a custom robotic fabrication method to obtain modular panels of polymers. Related Articles:

Glass and carbon fiber-reinforced polymers were chosen as construction materials for the panels, due to their unique qualities such as high strength-to-weight ratio and its potential to generate different material properties by changing its arrangement.

Integration of multiple process parameters into a component based construction system. Credit: © ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart

Integration of multiple process parameters into a component based construction system. Credit: © ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart

An Attractive Organic Design

  For the fabrication of the geometrically unique double-curved modules, a robotic coreless twisting method was developed, which used two collaborating 6-axis industrial robots to wrap chitin fibers between two custom-made steel frame effectors.

Credit: ICD/ITKE Research Pavillion 2013-14

Credit: ICD/ITKE Research Pavillion 2013-14

The interaction between fibers generates doubly curved surfaces from initially straight deposited fiber connections. These reciprocities among material, form, structure, and fabrication are defined through a winding syntax that becomes an integral part of the computational design tool.
Assembly process of 36 lightweight fiber composite components on site. Credit: © ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart

Assembly process of 36 lightweight fiber composite components on site. Credit: © ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart

Credit: ICD/ITKE Research Pavillion 2013-14

Credit: ICD/ITKE Research Pavillion 2013-14

A total of 36 different panels were fabricated, each with a unique fiber layout. The biggest panel has a 2.6 meter diameter, with a weight of 24.1 kilograms. The research pavilion covers a total area of 50 square meters and a volume of 122 m³. WATCH: ICD ITKE Research Pavilion 2013-14 The final design of the research pavilion bases its form on its interaction with the public space of the university and its close location to the park. The final outcome demonstrates how the computational synthesis of biological structural rules can lead to the generation of innovative construction materials, such as fibers, allowing novel spatial structures. Recommended Reading:

Article written by Luis Eduardo Guisar Benitez Return to Homepage

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