A team of researchers and designers in Zürich, Switzerland, has utilised concrete in a roofing system that retains its sturdiness while allowing the concrete to range from a mere 3 centimetres to 12 centimetres in terms of thickness. This breakthrough is largely due to shape.
The project in question is the prototype for a roof system, designed in a wavy form and resembling a shell. It is set to be installed on top of HiLo, a unit that forms part of a Dübendorf–based research centre called NEST.
The collaborative team behind the roof system consists largely of researchers from Block Research Group, a structural design and engineering-focused department based at ETH Zürich, a tertiary institution that specialises in science, mathematics, technology and engineering. Block Research Group collaborated with award-winning architecture firm, supermanoeuvre, which is based in Zürich and Sydney, Australia.
This group designed the roof in numerous stages, using both digital and practical techniques. The roof has a formwork component, consisting of steel cables and stretched polymer fabric. The team applied concrete onto this formwork through a spray, first ensuring that it was both viscous enough to attach itself permanently and liquid enough to be sprayed effectively. Between two applications of this concrete, mechanisms for insulation, heating and cooling were all added.
The overall construction of this roof proved both economic, given the simplicity of the materials, and relatively hassle-free, since work on the underside of the project could be completed while the concrete was being applied.
Professor Philippe Block of the Block Research Group told ArchDaily: “We’ve shown that it’s possible to build an exciting thin concrete shell structure using a lightweight, flexible formwork, thus demonstrating that complex concrete structures can be formed without wasting large amounts of material for their construction.”
Photography: Michael Lyrenmann