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Design, Fabrication, Simulation and Correlation of Parametrically Patterned Flexible Formwork and Concrete

Time: Fri 2021-09-24 13.00

Location: Videolänk, Du som saknar dator /datorvana kontakta Birgitta Brunström / Use the e-mail address if you need technical assistance, Stockholm (English), Stockholm (English)

Subject area: Architecture, Architectural Technology

Doctoral student: Annie Locke Scherer , Arkitekturteknik

Opponent: Professor Remo Pedreschi, University of Edinburgh, UK

Supervisor: Professor Oliver Tessmann, Arkitekturteknik, DDU Darmstadt, Germany; Professor Jonas Runberger, Arkitekturteknik, Chalmers

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Concrete is one of the most commonly used construction materials, yet industrial fabrication continues to default to established standards of planar formwork and uniform cross-sections for the sake of simplicity and predictability. The research conducted within Concrete Form[ing]work explored alternative methods of producing concrete formwork with a simple, technical re-imagination of material: exchanging the familiar, i.e., rigid wood, for flexible fabric. 

A survey of state-of-the-art research in the field of flexible formwork identified extant challenges hindering a more widespread industrial adoption of this concrete forming method. The research presented in this thesis identified two fundamental challenges: the complex tailoring required to produce non-standard forms and the lack of accurate simulation tools to visualize and communicate the fabrication process. This researchs employed a recursive, process-based workflow to construct design research experiments that addressed both of these shortcomings. 

The experiments were conducted within the fields of smocking, flexible formwork, computational patterning, simulation and correlation, and involved various levels of artifact development (probe, prototype and demonstrator). A review of relevant research revealed three significant characteristics of craft-based experiments: procedural workflows, evaluation criteria and the externalization of tacit material knowledge. These qualities served as a foundation for Concrete Form[ing]work’s research methodology and how experiments were constructed. A circular workflow of simulation, fabrication and calibration was employed to negotiate the complex relationship between parametrically tailored fabric and concrete materiality. Experiments were conducted using various ‘wandering’ approaches (serial, expansive, probing) based on the presence or absence of a preconceived hypothesis; these various approaches allowed for valuable knowledge production while retaining notions of craft. 

This research includes a comprehensive investigation of the potential of smocking as a means of tailoring complex formwork. Smocking is a centuries-old patterning technique of gathering and pinching fabric; its distinct feature is the ability to transform a flat sheet of gridded material into a complex surface without the extensive tailoring of custom pieces. By cataloging the related research fields of mesh unrolling, origami, kirigami origami, auxetic materials and conformal mapping in great depth, the research presented in this thesis has viii 

developed a digital tool, OriNuno, that deconstructs double-curved geometries into smocking patterns. OriNuno exemplifies the ability to program both local and global geometrical articulation with parametric smocking, allowing for the sustainable fabrication of complex forms from a single sheet of material. 

Secondly, this research systematized tacit material knowledge in the field of flexible formwork and concrete through communication and externalization. This was achieved by highlighting not just the result but the process of experimentation and developing accurate simulation tools that correlated with the final fabricated counterparts. The simulation tool utilizes open-source plugins to construct particle-spring models, which negotiate the complex interconnections between concrete rheology, hydrostatic forces and textile elasticity. The digital tool was refined through an iterative feedback loop between simulation, computation, physical experiments and assembly to ensure high correlation with cast counterparts. 

The contribution of the research conducted in this thesis can be viewed in terms of two aspects: the textile patterning of complex forms without an overabundance of unique elements and the expansion of accessible design and accurate simulation tools for flexible formwork. Addressing existing knowledge gaps and formalizing implicit knowledge improves the accessibility, utility and repeatability of flexible formwork fabrication methods for industry and designers with no previous tacit experience. This thesis takes significant steps to repair the once-fractured relationship between designer and fabricator through iterative material and digital experiments. In doing so, the research conducted within Concrete Form[ing]work has the potential to fundamentally change and streamline how the field of computational patterning and flexible formwork is approached and integrated within architectural design.