Sea-Urchin Inspired Pavilion Fabricated by the University of Stuttgart

A beautiful sea-urchin inspired pavilion has been created by a team of students and researchers at the University of Stuttgart using laminated beech plywood components that have been moulded and stitched together. The pavilion was created under the direction of professor Achim Menges, who leads the school’s renowned Institute for Computation Design, and Jan Knippers from the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design.

The intention behind the pavilion is to show the potential of materials in combination with computational design, simulation and fabrication process in architecture. The unique jointed plate structures developed for the structure are based on extensive biomimetic research into the shell formations of the flat, burrowing urchin – a type of sand dollar – and show how naturally occurring structures can be applied to construction.

To fabricate the structure, robots were used to bend the sheets of custom-laminated beech plywood into double-layered segments. These segments were then passed through an industrial sewing machine to stitch the pieces together and prevent the layers from separating. The stitched joints transfer forces between the segments, playing a similar role to the fibrous connection found between the layers of a sea urchin’s shell.

In total the structure comprises 151 wood elements with varying dimension between 0,5 and 1,5 mete1rs in diameter. The total weight of the struutre is 780 kilograms with a span of over 9 meters!

“The pavilion is the first of its kind to employ industrial sewing of wood elements on an architectural scale,” said the team in a statement.

You can see more works and projects by Achim Menges and his team, including their most recent presentation at Material Xperience 2016, in our archive here.