Robotics, biomimicry and museums

October 1st, 2016 / By: / Projects

Understanding that most load-bearing structures in biology are fibrous systems, the creators of the Elytra Filament Pavilion used glass and carbon fibers, relying more on form and less on materials to create a structure that is both lightweight and sturdy. Photos: Victoria and Albert Museum.
Understanding that most load-bearing structures in biology are fibrous systems, the creators of the Elytra Filament Pavilion used glass and carbon fibers, relying more on form and less on materials to create a structure that is both lightweight and sturdy. Photos: Victoria and Albert Museum.

Inspiration for design can easily be found in nature. Take the wing of a beetle: It has an outer shell called an elytra that is both protective and lightweight. Those construction principles are the basis of a striking new exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, celebrating the institution’s annual Engineering Season.

The Elytra Filament Pavilion combines ideas from nature with emerging architectural technologies, including robotics and biomimicry to create a structure with unique spatial and aesthetic qualities.

The 2,153-square-foot-design was created by German architects Achim Menges and Moritz Dörstelmann, structural engineer Jan Knippers, and climate engineer Thomas Auer in their University of Stuttgart fabrication hall.

Made of resin-saturated glass and carbon fiber, the canopy’s components are produced using an innovative robotic winding technique developed by the designers. The fiber is placed on each winding frame by the robot in a distinct and individual pattern that has been digitally adapted to specific loading conditions. The soft glass fiber provides the form and the stiff carbon fiber acts like steel, providing structural strength.

Much more than a static display, Elytra is a responsive shelter that delights visitors who can watch it grow over the course of the Engineering Season, June through November 2016. The canopy features fiber optic sensors that collect data on how people inhabit the space, enabling it to grow and adapt in real time. Visitors will have the opportunity to witness the pavilion change on site, as new components are fabricated by the robot.

Leave a Reply