Form Found Façade: Robotics and fabric formwork create façade

Fabric formwork is a building technology that involves the use of structural membranes as the main facing material for concrete moulds. Unlike traditional formwork, the material is highly flexible and can deflect under the pressure of concrete. This technique is not often used to make structures. Design studio Form Found Design aims to change that, as well as offer an alternative to repetitive patterns in façades, by creating Form Found Façade using robots and fabric formwork.

The aim of Form Found Design is to use industrial robots to cast new concrete forms. They harness the precision of six-axis industrial robots and the freedom of fabric to accomplish new building systems and furniture.

Fabric formwork largely depends on gravity and the elasticity of the fabric. If the material is elastic, it will give way to the concrete, creating shapes that are not possible with a rigid mould.

Making a Y-shaped mould out of Lycra, a type of flexible fabric similar to Spandex, Form Found Design uses robotic arms to stretch the material before the concrete is poured into the mould. The possible forms the material can take from being stretched by the robotic arms are predicted beforehand, using a computer programme.

Reinforcing cables are then cast within the shapes of the façade to deliver tensile forces between members, before the concrete is added. This results in Y-shaped concrete pieces that were all slightly shaped differently, while still looking similar.

The individual pieces are attached to each other with bolts by hexagon shaped parts, to make a façade system without a repetitive pattern. To make the façade even more playful, Form Found Design made two layers of the cladding. The system is self-supporting.

In March this year, the design studio plans to unveil a self-supporting pavilion in Palm Springs, featuring over 70 unique concrete shapes and connections made in the same fashion.

The Form Found Façade was presented at Facade Tectonics World Conference in Los Angeles.

Photos: Form Found Design