IN: Inspiration

Zaha Hadid Knits Concrete Curves

A new textile technology makes curved concrete without costly, time-consuming moulds.

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Thanks to current research and development, concrete is fast becoming one of the world’s most versatile materials. Scientists recently broke new ground with a wall made from touch-sensitive concrete; researchers in the Netherlands, meanwhile, are on track to build the world’s first habitable house made from 3D-printed concrete, while Chinese property developers have already cottoned on to 3-D printing to enhance construction.

Concrete research has taken another big leap with the partnering of two innovation heavyweights – Swiss university ETH Zürich and the acclaimed firm Zaha Hadid Architects. The partnership gave birth to a curved concrete pavilion that employs KnitCrete, a new 3D-knitted textile technology, and which is on display in Mexico City.

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Titled KnitCandela, the pavilion uses a combination of digital textile innovation and traditional construction techniques. The result is spider-like in that three segments curve skywards, meeting in a complex archway. The underside shows lurid contours while the exterior is cast in plain concrete.

The production of KnitCandela involved knitting four yarn strips whose length varied between 15 and 26 metres. Over three kilometres’ worth of yarn was used yet fabrication took just 36 hours; the strips were then flown from Switzerland to Mexico.

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In Mexico, the double-layered yarn strips were hung using a wooden frame and cable-net system. Then, 1 000 modelling balloons were inserted into the pocket between the two fabric layers; this gave the pavilion its desired shape, which was then coated with a cement paste for rigidity. The contrast between interior and exterior layers was produced by leaving the interior layer un-coated, revealing the lurid yarn strips.

Not only does this method of creating curved concrete avoid costly and time-consuming moulds, the result is visually edifying. KnitCandela takes its name from Spanish-Mexican architect Félix Candela, whose work featured curved concrete shells. The vibrant interior, meanwhile, aims to evoke the folds of a traditional Mexican Jalisco dress.

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Daring and exquisite designs are among the staple of both Zaha Hadid Architects and ETH Zürich. For example, Zaha Hadid Architects’ One Thousand Museum, which includes a concrete exoskeleton, is nearing completion in Miami (US). Researchers at ETH Zürich have developed a ceiling slab using minimal concrete with help from an on-site robot.

For more on KnitCandela, visit: https://bit.ly/2CWRSvh.

Image credits: Juan Pablo Allegre

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