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Materials that defy gravity

What binds all architects?

This is the question that architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars poses at the start of every seminar he gives. The letters filled the screen in the seminar lounge at Material Xperience 2014, and the Dutch architect paused for a moment before giving the short answer: gravity.

Architects and other designers always try to make their work stand up and stay standing. This is why ambitious attempts to counter the forces of gravity are all the more exciting. Façade cantilevers, floating staircases and skyscrapers all appeal because they seem to defy natural laws.

In a series of inspiring images, Janjaap Ruijssenaars, founder of Universe Architecture, shows us just how appealing such designs can be. Smart solutions are the key at every stage in the design.

The floating bed, for example, is a clever combination of high-strength permanent magnets with a minimalist supporting box. The bed is held in place with wires and the magnets are engineered so that one in each corner is enough to keep the bed up. Steel, plastic and air shield the bed so that your laptop isn’t ruined while you work in bed.

It can take a while for new technology to be accepted, and the levitating bed is no exception. To help, Janjaap developed the floating stool; a smaller white magnetic button that can be used for seating. It is similar to this ‘floating table’. The principle is the same: a neodymium magnet is heated and keeps its powerful magnetism after cooling.

Such techno-experiments led the designer to 3D printing. Working with Enrico Dini’s printer, Janjaap tested the combination of sand and magnesium chloride as a building material.

That, in turn, led to the question of what new forms could be printed, again while refusing to give in to gravity. The result is the landscape house, which is an attempt to build a house without an end.

Cooperating with a southeast Asian concrete firm, Janjaap is now looking into how to construct the project. Restrictions in the 3D printing machine can help. For instance, the house was designed to be 10m wide, but the printer can only manage 7m strips. At this width, the construction is much stronger, and the plans were subsequently streamlined to make the building more elegant too.

In short, architecture becomes more exciting as the problem of falling down is removed.

By answering his original question, Janjaap also provides clues to another, even more pertinent one: how to build for the future. The future demands constant innovation, and Janjaap is a persistent architectural innovator. Taking his examples as a cue, the future looks very exciting indeed.

Download his whole presentation here. All images via Universe Architecture.

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