Designing and prototyping a new generation of composite sandwich structures for free form architecture – CICE 2012

Proceedings of CICE 2012 6th International Conference on FRP Composites in Civil Engineering - Rome, Italy, 13-15 June 2012

The design & build process of the liquid design roofs for the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv, that took place at Octatube’s of Delft NL, in relation to the Blob Research Group, under leadership of prof. Eekhout at the TU Delft. Through an interdisciplinary approach and a dynamic parallel process of theory & practice, which in its turn mutually stimulate each other by new concepts for structural systems and Blob technology.

Keywords: 3D composite components, Blob technology, Design & Build, Liquid Architecture.

Technical design of roof and façade structures for architecture has accelerated in the last 3 decades with successive emphasis on free form stretched membrane structures, systemized metal space structures, sophisticated tensegrity structures, glass envelope constructions and load bearing glass structures. It has been boosted again by the development of ‘Liquid Design’ / ‘Free Form’ architecture or ‘Blob’ architecture. This type of architecture is computer-based rather than culture-based. Hence it cannot be regarded as a new style of architecture, as it does not have its roots in philosophy and human behaviour. This type of architecture is in a sense caused by technology driven interest of architects, having learned the newest generation of 3D design computer programs, capable to design complicated virtual 3D buildings that seem like they are realistic. Yet the route to reality is paved with technical experiments to produce the technical components out of which these ‘Blob’ buildings consist in their 3D form, often 3D-curved but in their form one-offs and non repetitive. So the contradiction is custom-made components versus the low budgets of the building industry and developing innovations in order to acquire new affordable technology. The aid of other design professions like aeronautics, ship and yacht design and industrial design is necessary in order to develop a new ‘Blob’ technology with the 3D forms and characteristics of the mentioned design fields, yet fitting within the modest average m² budgets of the building industry. This is the driving force of enlarging the traditional integration between architectural, structural and industrial design to incorporate also aeronautical design, yacht design and to develop CAD/CAE, CAM/CAB procedures and special production and geodetic surveying technologies. In this case producing one-off GRP (Glass-fibre Reinforced Plastic) stressed skin sandwich components able to span larger spans and in a arbitrary form as to become 3D-roofs for ‘Free Form’ architecture. Each initial experiment in the first years of a new type of architecture is an extremely complicated process, but one where design dominates.