DigitalFUTURES Project Award 2020 – KnitCandela



This award is given to a recently completed project that has a significant contribution to architectural discipline through applications of digital technology. The scale of the project could be ranging from fashion design to urban development.

KnitCandela

A flexibly formed, thin concrete shell at MUAC, Mexico City

Built at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) in Mexico City as part of the first exhibition of Zaha Hadid Architects in Latin America (20.10.2018 – 03.03.2019), KnitCandela is an homage to the famous Spanish-Mexican shell builder Félix Candela (1910 – 1997). It reimagines his spectacular concrete shells through the introduction of novel computational design methods and the KnitCrete formwork technology.

The architectural design is the latest expression of the evolving search of the Computational Design Group of Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHCODE) for designs that utilise structural and constructional features to enhance the spatial experience of the user. For the realisation of this expression, the Block Research Group (BRG) of ETH Zurich introduced the KnitCrete formwork technology and developed the structural design and construction system. Architecture Extrapolated (R-Ex) managed the execution of the project on site in Mexico City as part of its continued engagement in the digitisation of building trades in Mexico.

The shell’s dynamic geometry is inspired by the fluid forms of the traditional and colourful dress of Jalisco, Mexico. The builders’ nickname for the project was ‘Sarape’, which is a scarf or poncho with a stripe pattern. The shape also pays homage to Candela’s famous restaurant at Xochimilco, a trope he repeated in several subsequent projects.

While Candela relied on combining hyperbolic paraboloid surfaces (or “hypars”) to produce reusable formworks and thus reduce construction waste, KnitCrete allows for the realisation of a much wider range of anticlastic geometries. With this cable-net and fabric formwork system, expressive, freeform concrete surfaces can now be constructed efficiently, without the need for complex moulds. KnitCandela’s thin, doubly-curved concrete shell with a surface area of almost 50 m2 and weighing more than 5 tonnes, was constructed with a 55 kg formwork, brought to Mexico from Switzerland in a suitcase.

image credit : Angelica Ibarra

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