Celebrating advances in space age construction, the Institute for Computational Design (ICD) and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) has joined forces with pupils at the University of Stuttgart, to develop a series of experimental pavilions that together tell the tale of computational design and computer-aided manufacturing processes for advanced construction.

The ICD’s objective is to prepare pupils for the advancement of computerized processes in architecture, as they combine the subjects of design, engineering, planning and construction. The common characteristics of these fields is demonstrated technically and conceptually by way of parametric and algorithmic design strategies. This supplies the groundwork for deeper exploration into the integrative use of computational processes in architectural design, with a focus on integrated methods for the creation and evaluation of complete information and performance-based models.

These pavilions focus on innovation in materials and advanced construction as fundamental characteristics of the research activities at ITKE and ICD, with each explored through technological fabrication and the development of full-scale prototypes.

The ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion was developed in summer 2011 and is a temporary, bionic research pavilion culled from wood. The project examines the architectural transfer of biological principles of the sea urchin’s plate skeleton morphology through new computer-based design and simulation methods, as well as computer-coordinated manufacturing ways to implement its construction. In fact, this complex pavilion could be built with slim sheets of plywood (6.5 mm).

The 2012 pavilion is robotically generated from carbon and glass fibre composites. This project examines the possible connection between biomimetic design strategies and new processes of robotic production. The research concerned the material and morphological characteristics of arthropods’ exoskeletons as a source of study for a novel composite construction paradigm in building design.

The 2013 pavilion is a bionic research pavilion which spotlights the possibilities of new design, simulation and fabrication processes in building design. The project was planned and built in one and a half years by a multi-disciplinary team.

The ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2014-15 illustrates the architectural possibility of a new construction method that simulates the underwater nest construction of the water spider. By way of a revolutionary robotic fabrication process, an originally flexible pneumatic framework is stiffened by the addition of carbon fibers from the interior. The resulting lightweight fiber composite shell creates a pavilion that boasts unique building properties and material efficiency.

The 2015 pavilion displayed the results of robotic textile fabrication techniques for segmented timber shells—the first structure to incorporate the industrial sewing of wooden elements on an architectural scale.

In 2016, the exhibition “Hello, Robot. Design between Human and Machine” at the Vitra Design Museum explored the contemporary robotics revolution. On the exterior of the museum, the »Elytra Filament Pavilion« complemented the exhibit; a bionic baldachin that demonstrated the connection between robotics and architecture. Its modules were formulated through an algorithm and created with the aid of a robot. Following the pavilion’s premiere at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, it now stands on the Vitra campus.

The 2017 Pavilion studied the built scale fabrication of glass and carbon fibre composites, based upon the unique qualities of fibre construction. These materials are lightweight and feature heightened tensile strength, a fabrication method emerges which combines low-payload but long-range machines such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), with strong, exact, but limited reach industrial robots. This collaborative idea facilitates a scalable fabrication foundation for long- span fibre composite construction.

Ensconced in the wavy landscape of the Bundesgartenschau grounds, the BUGA Fibre Pavilion gives viewers an advance peek at futuristic building. The pavilion illustrates how the combination of revolutionary computational technologies with constructional principles discovered in nature facilitates the development of a new and digital building system. The pavilion’s load-bearing structure is robotically manufactured from advanced fiber components.

The Urbach Tower, an exquisite wooden structure, results from a novel self-shaping of the curved wood components. This institution represents a paradigm shift in timber manufacturing from complicated and energy-intensive mechanical forming processes performed with heavy machinery to a procedure where the material shapes by itself. This shape shift is impelled by the wood’s characteristic shrinking throughout a decrease of moisture content. Parts for the 14 m tall tower are designed and manufactured in a flattened shape and transformed autonomously into the completed curved shapes throughout the industry-standard technical drying. This introduces new and unexpected architectural possibilities for wooden buildings, with a sustainable, renewable, and locally sourced material.