Jon Krähling Engholt, Aarhus School of Architecture
Dave Pigram, University of Technology Sydney
Iain [Max] Maxwell, University of Canberra
Tailored Flexibility is a research project that combines large-scale robotic 3d-printing, flexible-formwork, inverted pressure casting and Glass-Fibre Reinforced Concrete (GFRC) to produce highly differentiated lightweight facade panels with minimal waste. The research project ‘Material imagination: Reconnecting with the matter of architecture’ studies how digital design and fabrication tools might engage a penetrating imagination of material manipulation. This PhD sub-project focusing on concrete and carried out by co-author Jon Engholt investigates how the material characteristics of liquid concrete manifest emergent aesthetic qualities when confronted by digital means of control. Carried out as successions of physical experimentation, this study includes a notion of digital craft, in which matter, mind and manipulation are intimately connected. Such intimate involvement with physical matter suggests not only a method of study but also invites an attitude of material research. Initially driven
by curiosity rather than demand, the successions of prototypes offer an example of how fertile such inquisitive experimental studies might be.
The material experiments initially studied the combination of fabric formwork and large-scale fused deposition modelling (FDM). By printing patterns of thermoplastics onto a two-way stretch fabric, the deposited material acts to locally reinforce the fabric and thus restrain the liquid concrete. The physical form thus arises from the gravitational negotiation between liquid concrete and the tailored variable elasticity of thermoplastic-reinforced fabric formwork. The development process studied: fabric/thermoplastic adhesion; pattern topology and toolpath generation; reuse of rigid casting rig parts; horizontal and vertical casting in one- and two-sided moulds; thermoplastic blends and performance; formwork material reuse; inverse pressure casting and bespoke panel design.
The exhibited artefacts demonstrate a prototypical iteration towards lightweight concrete panels that involves fixing the reinforced fabric membrane in a rigid frame, weighing it down with sand, sealing the sand inside the formwork, inverting the assembly and spraying GFRC onto the smooth fabric, that now bulges from the sand pressure. This method produces a high-quality lightweight panel with a pattern of concave cavities throughout the exposed surface thus inverting the familiar bulging aesthetic of fabric formwork in architecture (Fisac, Unno, West, Kudless etc.) Intended for a larger facade element assembly, each triangular panel is cast against individually printed fabric membranes while the rigid frame can be repeatedly re-used and adjusted to define the size and edges of each panel.
Embracing the second meaning of prototype – primitive – the project demonstrates how iterative successions of prototypical studies might transform something fundamentally artistic (or architecturally primitive) into a functional architectural element.
Jon Krähling Engholt_ is a Danish architect and researcher. He holds a Masters in Architecture from Aarhus School of Architecture.
Dave Pigram_ is a computational design and robotic fabrication researcher and co-director of the architecture practice supermanoeuvre. He holds a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University in New York.
Iain [Max] Maxwell_ is a registered Architect, design researcher and educator and co-director of the architecture practice supermanoeuvre. He holds a Masters in Architecture from the Architectural Association, School of Architecture in London. www.supermanoeuvre.com
Image: The panel during formwork disassembling.