Compressive assemblies: Bottom-up performance for a new form of construction

Block P., Rippmann M. and Van Mele T.
AD Architectural Design
doi: 10.1002/ad.2202

From Inuit igloos to Roman arches to Gothic cathedrals, builders have long used friction and balance to make structures hold together. The Block Research Group at ETH Zurich is involved in ongoing research that investigates historical techniques and fuses them with the latest technologies, including robotics and 3D printing, to establish new methods of architectural assembly.

This contribution demonstrates through historical references and the latest research by the Block Research Group that paradigm-shifting innovations can be achieved by favouring compressive flows during and after assembly, for the purposes of reducing or even totally eliminating falsework, simplifying connection details, using weak materials, and fully embracing novel fabrication technologies, such as 3D-printing strategies, in order to significantly reduce the embodied energy of constructions.


    author  = "Block, P. and Rippmann, M. and Van Mele, T.",
    title   = "Compressive assemblies: Bottom-up performance for a new form of construction",
    journal = "AD Architectural Design",
    year    = "2017",
    volume  = "87",
    number  = "4",
    pages   = "104-109",
    month   = "July/August",
    doi     = "10.1002/ad.2202",
    note    = "Special issue S. Tibbits (Ed.) - Autonomous Assembly: Designing for a new era of collective construction",

Related publications

Block P., Rippmann M. and Van Mele T.Structural Stone Surfaces: New compression shells inspired by the past,AD Architectural Design,85(5): 74 - 79,2015 (September/October).Special issue A. Menges (Ed.) - Material Synthesis: Fusing the Physical and the Computational.
Rippmann M., Liew A., Van Mele T. and Block P.Design, fabrication and testing of discrete 3D sand-printed floor prototypes,Material Today Communications,15: 254-259,2018.
Frick U., Van Mele T. and Block P.Decomposing three-dimensional shapes into self-supporting discrete element assemblies,Proceedings of the Design Modelling Symposium 2015,Ramsgaard Thomsen, M., Tamke, M., Gengnagel, C., Faircloth, B. and Scheurer, F. (editors),: 187-201,Springer International PublishingCopenhagen,2015.


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