We've seen numerous examples of computer-aided parametric design in the last few years. Combining parametric design with principles of tensegrity (ie. "tensional integrity", a term coined by Buckminster Fuller), architecture graduate students and designers at the Digital Fabrication Lab at the University of Tokyo have created an experimental pavilion that can unfold completely flat, but becomes a stable structure when the components are put into a balance of compression and tension.
Seen over at ArchDaily, the structure, named "Ninety-Nine Failures" for its consistent series of trials and errors to explore the possibilities of putting components simultaneously in compression and tension, was made out of pre-stressed cables and inflated steel pillows. A network of 255 different elements was made to work as a coherent, integrated structural system, say the designers:
We used very thin stainless steel sheets for the compressive components to achieve a super lightweight structure. The components were fabricated like inflated metal “pillows”; each component was composed of three metal sheet layers. The middle sheet was the thickest of the sheets to give extra stiffness. All of the component edges were welded together and sealed, thus making the inflation process possible while also ensuring each component was watertight. The components were hydraulically inflated to act as a compressive structural element.
Using programs like Grasshopper and Kangaroo, along with large scale models, the designers tested over 50 variations of possible geometric networks that would still allow the structure to unfold flat, eventually settling on one that created an attractive space. In addition, building something in tensegrity means that less material is needed to create an exceptionally rigid structure -- an intriguing way to approach greener building. More over at Digital Fabrication Lab and ArchDaily.