The Studio One Research Pavilion is the final project of UC Berkeley’s post-professional Master of Architecture program. In 2016-17, Studio One was instructed by Prof. Simon Schleicher and supported by industry experts from Kreysler & Associates and the ITKE. Under this guidance, the students of Studio One focused their research on the general topic of Bio-inspired Design and Fabrication and Bending-active Sandwich Structures in particular. The design brief was to conceptualize a new temporary (fiber-)glasshouse for UC Berkeley’s Botanical Garden. This project had to be extremely lightweight, easy-to-deploy, and an energy-efficient growing environment capable of hosting a selection of the Garden’s world-renown carnivarous plants. In addition, the pavilion should also envision a glasshouse for the 21st century that is in step with the exciting innovations in the field of advanced digital design and the fabrication of composite structures. To meet these challenges, the team decided to conceptualize the pavilion as a bending-active sandwich shell. The term bending-active refers to both a structural system and construction principle, in which bending is not avoided but instrumentalized to generate a form and stabilize a shape. The concept is based on the idea using soft building blocks and large elastic deformations of initially planar elements. In this case, the double-curved shape of the pavilion was discretized into single-curved strips that could be easily fabricated using flat-based lamination techniques and manually be bent into form. This project addresses a key problem of bending-active structures: How to build a stable structure from flexible parts? The team found the solution by designing the pavilion as a multi-layered sandwich structure. As typical for this structural system, the individual strips are composed out of two thin skins and a lightweight but thick core in between. The core is made out of the same low strength GFRP material as the top and bottom layers, its corrugated geometry offers more structural height and results in a much higher weight-specific bending stiffness.
For the design of the pavilion, the team used a combination of digital form-finding and form-conversion processes. These simulations took advantage of advanced structural analysis tools and integrated Finite Element Methods already in the early stages of the design process. Studying the structural performance of a single-layered shell, for example, gave valuable information where to expect the highest deformations and stress concentrations. These insights were then used to inform the design of the multi-layered sandwich structure. Areas that are exposed to high stress where optimized by modifying the shell thickness and the orientation and density of the corrugation. FE-simulations were also used in the later stages of the design process to recreate the bending process itself and ascertain whether the target geometry can be reached when coupling the layers to each other.
As a proof of concept, the team decided to build the strip with the highest curvature in full scale. A flat-based lamination technique was used to create thin fiberglass sheets of only 1.5 mm thickness. The shapes for the top and bottom layer were cut directly from these sheets once they were fully cured. For the corrugation of the mid-layer, however, another technique was used. The team firstly produced a minimal formwork by cutting styrofoam blocks with a 4-axis hotwire machine. Afterwards, they draped the laminate into the formwork while it was still wet and malleable. The styrofoam blocks were then used to press the laminate during the curing phase. For the assembly, the team took advantage of the fact that each layer was flexible enough to be bent individually before cross-connecting them together and thus generating the desired sandwich effect. The final prototype of the Studio One Research Pavilion 2017 was on display during the Thesis Show at UC Berkeley’s Department of Architecture.
All photos by Studio One, UC Berkeley.
This project wouldn’t have been possible without the fantastic work of our Studio One students and the generous support of our collaborating academic and industry partners. Therefore, special thanks are due to the entire team!
Xiangyu An, Barrak Darweesh, Taewook Kang, Georgios Kontominas, Heewon Lee, Yuepeng Li, Yuanfang Lu, Ioanna Tatli, and Hao Zheng.
Professor Simon Schleicher
Simon Schleicher (UC Berkeley)
Riccardo La Magna (University of Stuttgart – ITKE)
Joshua Zabel (Kreysler & Associates)
University of California, Berkeley – Department of Architecture
University of California Berkeley Botanical Garden
University of Stuttgart – ITKE
Kreysler & Associates
Schleicher, S., La Magna, and R., Zabel, J. (2017). Bending-active Sandwich Shells: Studio One Research Pavilion 2017. ACADIA conference, ACADIA 2017 Disciplines & Disruptions, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Campbridge, MA, USA. (peer-reviewed)
- Date August 25, 2017
- Tags Bending-active Plates, ITKE, research, Research, Simon Schleicher Research, Studio One