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Fibre composite pavilion is inspired by nature

Engineers at the University of Stuttgart developed the BUGA Fibre Pavilion, which combines cutting-edge computational technologies with constructional principles found in nature, and is produced robotically from advanced fibre composites only.

In biology, most loadbearing structures are fibre composites, made from fibres like for example cellulose, chitin or collagen. These materials are supported by a matrix material. The resource efficiency and astounding performance of biological structures stems from these fibrous systems. Their organization, directionality and density is finely tuned and locally varied in order to ensure that material is only placed where it is needed.

With the BUGA Fibre Pavilion, a collaboration between the Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) and the Institute for Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) at the University of Stuttgart, the researchers aimed to transfer this biological principle of load-adapted fibre composite systems into architecture. They used artificial composites such as glass– or carbon fibre reinforced plastics to realise the building. These materials share fundamental characteristics with natural composites.

The pavilion is made from more than 150.000 metres of spatially arranged glass- and carbon fibres. Each needs to be individually designed and placed, which is difficult to achieve with established production technologies. Therefore, the engineers produced the building components by robotic, coreless filament winding, a method developed by the University of Stuttgart. Fibrous filaments are freely placed between rotating winding scaffolds by a robot.

During the process, the predefined shape of the building emerges only from the interaction of the filaments, eliminating the need for any mould or core. This allows to create bespoke forms and individual fibre layup for each component without the production of waste of material off-cuts.

During manufacturing, a lattice of translucent glass fibres is generated, onto which the black carbon are placed where they are structurally needed. The result is a load-adapted component.

The pavilion has a floor area of about 400 metres and encloses fully transparent, mechanically, pre-stressed ETFE membrane. The primary load-bearing structure is only made from 60 bespoke fibre composite components. With 7.6 kilograms per square meter, it is exceptionally lightweight, approximately five times lighter than a more conventional steel structure.

Photos: ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart