Freeform Wooden Pavilion Structurally Biomimicks Sea Urchin's Form

The concept of biomimicry is simple: it’s design innovation that’s inspired by nature, which can show up anywhere from buildings to products. And what you get may be a surprising departure from the usual, like this beautiful wooden pavilion that takes structural cues from the sea urchin, while also transforming a public space.

Created as a joint effort in biological research between University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design (ICD) and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE), the so-called “bionic” dome is constructed out of plywood sheets at 6.5 millimeters thick.

Modelled on the biological principles of a sea urchin’s plate skeleton, the idea was to study and then emulate this biological form using advanced computer-based design and simulations. In particular, the designers focused on the sand dollar, a sub-species of sea urchin (Echinoidea).

icd/itke university of stuttgart pavilionICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart/via

In the long-term, the projects hopes to

[..] integrat[e] the performative capacity of biological structures into architectural design and at testing the resulting spatial and structural material-systems in full scale.

Much like the sand dollar sea urchin’s modular system of polygonal plates that are linked with finger-like protrusions, the pavilion’s wooden plates are finger-jointed together in complex but modular arrangements, all done using robotic fabrication.

ICD/ITKE University of StuttgartICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart/via

ICD/ITKE University of StuttgartICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart/via

The designers explain how translating the sand dollar sea urchin’s form into freeform architecture resulted in a unique lightweight structure, which can be applied to a wide range of geometries:

Three plate edges always meet together at just one point, a principle which enables the transmission of normal and shear forces but no bending moments between the joints, thus resulting in a bending bearing but yet deformable structure.

There’s more for you computational design and biology buffs out there, as the designers talk about how the biological principles of "heterogeneity, anisotropy and hierarchy" are transferred into the structure's design. Read more on the project site here.

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