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AIRSHELL - Bending timber with air

MSD PhD student Alessandro Liuti completed the construction of AIRSHELL, the first timber gridshell structure ever formed by means of a pneumatic formwork.

Gridshells derive their lightness and strength from combining material and geometric properties into a form-resistant structure.

Inspired by the work of Frei Otto and Dante Bini, this new system combines the use of an inflatable membrane and an Arduino board - the former used as a dynamic formwork, the latter to monitor the height of the structure and the membrane pressure throughout the forming process.

AIRSHELL was conceived by integrating digital design techniques with small-scale prototypes, which helped simulating, prior to construction, the technology and behaviour of the system.

The project was supervised by Dr Alberto Pugnale and Dr Toong-Khuan Chan at the Melbourne School of Design.

Manufacturing and prototyping were developed in collaboration with: Prof Alessandra Zanelli (Politecnico Milano / Textiles Hub); Prof Sergio Pone (University of Naples Federico II / Faculty of Architecture / Gridshell.it); Dr Sofia Colabella (EPFL Lausanne / Gridshell.it).

Other technical partners include: Serge FerrariGrottaroli wood engineering solutions and Green2.

Related publications:

Liuti A., Pugnale A., D’Amico B., Building timber gridshells with air: Numerical simulations and technique challenges

Liuti A., Pugnale A., Erection of post-formed gridshells by means of inflatable membrane technology