There are few things a design journalist loves more than an experimental pavilion—except, of course, an experimental pavilion that’s been 3D printed. The goal of additive manufacturing in construction has been long been to build bigger. Recently, however, the focus has shifted to the component and systems levels where the emphasis is on detail and the end-game is scale. And while pavilions are by no means a new way of testing out design ideas, a growing number of architects and designers are bringing their additive manufacturing research to life in the form of innovative structures characterized by block- and panel constructions that show how the technology could (eventually) be used to build at a larger scale. Below are a few recent projects that caught our eye.
San Francisco architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello founded Emerging Objects as a research and development offshoot of their eponymous architecture firm to explore ways of bringing 3D printing into their workflow. Among its latest projects is Bloom, a 9-foot-tall, 12-foot-wide enclosure whose undulating structural skin comprises more than 800 3D-printed concrete blocks. The pair has also explored 3D printing in wood fiber, nylon, salt, tea, and chocolate. And they’ve dabbled in the conventional plastic, too. Their Star Lounge curved dome features 2,073 hexagonal panels—with 28 panel types in all—printed in PLA plastic and whose colors correspond to their role in the structure, facilitating installation and resulting in a repeated motif. Emerging Objects partnered with desktop 3D-printer developer MakerBot, in Brooklyn, which ran more than 100 3D-printers simultaneously to fabricate the panels, which were subsequently hand-riveted together.
For this year’s SXSW (South by Southwest), 3M—the maker of Post-Its, Scotch-brand tape, and architectural films, among other products—created LifeLab, a modular pavilion shaped by powdercoated aluminum pipes whose custom lengths are joined using more than 1,200 unique 3D-printed snap-fit connectors. The company worked with New York firm SOFTlab and ad agency BBDO to create the outdoor structure, which was displayed in Austin, Texas' Brush Square park from March 13 to 15. The pavilion's frame doubled as a ceiling, a space divider, and a display surface clad in the company’s light-shifting Dichroic film, turning the interior into a colorful kaleidoscope.
Last month we reported on Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s 3D-printed shelter—a ribbed enclosure that shares renewable power with a companion car, also 3D printed, to stay off-grid during peak-energy-use periods. Designed with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge (Tenn.) National Laboratory, Maryville, Tenn.–based housing manufacturer Clayton Homes, and the University of Tennessee's College of Architecture and Design, the 38-foot-long, 12-foot-wide, and 13-foot-tall prototype is shaped by a series of 3D-printed carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer panels, which are post-tensioned with steel rods for stability. The prototype was conceived as a micro-shelter for disaster relief and mass-produced student housing.
This silkworm-inspired structure alleges to be the world's largest 3D-printed architectural pavilion. Located in the atrium of the Parkview Green office complex in Beijing and fabricated by local studio Laboratory for Creative Design, Vulcan is a draw at the ongoing Beijing Design Week 2015. The arched pavilion's cocoon-like construction comprises more than 1,000 unique 3D-printed building blocks that took 20 large-scale printers a month to produce and a 15-person crew nearly two weeks to assemble, Designboom reports. The resulting form harks back to an actual silkworm-led construction, the 2013 Silk Pavilion from MIT's Mediated Matter Group, which paired a robotic arm to print the frame and an army of live silkworms to fill in the gaps with their thread. Albeit synthetic, Vulcan—at roughly 8 meters long and 3 meters tall—is modeled after a mushroom cloud or fire plume, its makers say, evoking its namesake, the Roman god of fire.