Robotic building design is advancing via the Future Tree project, a timber canopy constructed with robots in a project prepared by Gramazio Kohler Research and ETH Zurich. Finished in October 2019, after a couple of years of planning and about 4 months of construction, the Future Tree is a project of complex timber buildings and digital concrete. The tree-like canopy was built above the courtyard of the corporate building extension of Basler & Hofmann in Esslingen, Switzerland.

An industrial robot was utilised to fabricate and put together the Future Tree’s 380 timber elements constructed from acetylated pine wood and fitted with full-threaded screws and tension cables to create a reciprocal frame. The building’s canopied crown is held up by a solitary, trunk-like concrete column and affixed to the office building on dual sides while cantilevering on the opposite corner.

The frame’s geometric structure is inspired by its structural makeup, distinguishing its flexible rigidity by reconfiguring the opening of the reciprocal knots to attain an exalted stiffness in the cantilevering part, Gramazio Kohler Research explained. This was accomplished to combine geometric, structural and fabricating design facets to create a computer model of the design.

One important project characteristic is Future Tree’s reinforced concrete column, culled with a new fabrication process. “Eggshell” that blends a wafer thin, robot 3D-printed formwork with quickly hardening concrete. As the premiere built subject design accomplished through this fabrication process, Future Tree displayed as to how atypical concrete structures can be created efficiently, economically and sustainably, says Gramazio Kohler Research. The formwork, 3D-printed to a thickness of 1.5 millimeters with the use of a robotic arm, is brimming with quickly hardening concrete in a multi-layered casting process that lightens hydrostatic pressure, and can be recycled and reused following the concrete’s hydration.