The complexity of 3D printing is progressively weaving ground-breaking layers every day. Future Tree envisioned by Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich incorporating cutting edge technology exposes a canopy structure streaming over the courtyard of the Basler & Hofmann building in Switzerland. A series of timber frames arranged in varying hexagonal combinations seem to sprout and develop like a tree flourishing its structure. The courtyard is brought to life by this intrinsic sculpture soaring as a geometric casing.
The design team conceptualized to sync trailblazing strategic techniques infused in new materials and robotic additive manufacturing, all strikingly elevating this architectural project. The Future Tree is composed of a column that supports the canopy, conceived using a six-axis robotic arm. The ultra-thin rhombic formwork, arches over 2 meters in height, built as one piece and filled with a fast hardening custom concrete. The column design was parametrically generated after multiple prototype iterations. The “Eggshell” technique using the FDM technology, engaged the designers to optimize novel assemblies considering minimal waste.
In crisp definition, rising in bold stature is the stunning branch evolved as a tree. The structure uses acetylated pine wood, full thread screws and clamping tension cables tightening the structural fabric. 380 robust elements frame the canopy to a specific arrangement of the fragments. Each plank is uniquely sized to stack into its preserved position. The base is anchored to the building’s patio on two sides and cantilevered to the opposite corner.
It was challenging for the design team to overcome the problem of shrinkage of printing material when it cools. However, they configurated a diamond-shaped micro-pattern to the formwork, that reduced the shrinkage stresses during the 3D printing process, as well as toughened the formwork.
The Future Tree sits interweaved between a garden and glazed building, relishing and refreshing in its posture and ambience. During the sunny days, the canopy casts exciting shadows that stretch and expand trailing along the sun path.
Project Name: Future Tree
Location: Esslingen, Zürich, Switzerland
Architect: Gramazio Kohler Research / ETH Zürich
Client: Basler & Hofmann
Team: Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich
Collaborators: Dr. Aleksandra Anna Apolinarska, Dr. Ena Lloret-Fritschi, Joris Burger, Nizar Taha, Fabio Scotto
In Cooperation With Physical Chemistry Of Building Materials Group (ETH Zurich, Prof. Dr Robert J. Flatt, Dr Thibault Demoulin, Bruno Pinto Aranda)
Selected Experts: Basler & Hofmann AG, ERNE AG Holzbau, SJB Kempter Fitze AG, Concrete Structures & Bridge Design (ETH Zurich, Prof. Walter Kaufmann, Dr. Jaimé Mata-Falcon)
Selected Contractors: ERNE AG Holzbau (Fabrication Timber Structure)