The White Tower: A marvel of 3D-printed architecture in the Swiss Alps

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White Tower

The White Tower, known as “Weisser Turm,” stands as a groundbreaking architectural marvel that has captured global attention. Nestled in the secluded village of Mulegns, Switzerland, along the enchanting Julier mountain pass, this towering structure reaches a height of 29 meters and is entirely constructed using 3D printing technology. Fundaziun Origen spearheaded this visionary project, intending to breathe new life into the village and establish it as a cultural haven, hosting captivating art installations, music performances, and theatrical productions.

The minds behind this endeavor are Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger, distinguished architects renowned for their innovative approach. Hansmeyer, an architect and computational designer, joins forces with Dillenburger, an architect and researcher specializing in digital fabrication, both affiliated with the esteemed DBT ETHZ (Department of Building Technology) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). Through their expertise, they seamlessly blend state-of-the-art technology with artistic vision, resulting in the awe-inspiring White Tower.

White Tower

The White Tower emerges as a symbol of hope for Mulegns, a village currently grappling with decline. By celebrating the region’s rich cultural history, the project endeavors to stimulate tourism while fostering economic growth. Moreover, this architectural masterpiece brings invaluable digital skills to the mountainous terrain, propelling local trade and nurturing the community.

At its core, the design concept encompasses a series of abstract, atmospherically dense rooms that elegantly form a vertical enfilade. These versatile spaces cater to a range of cultural activities, providing a platform for engaging exhibitions and installations. The crown jewel of the tower lies on the top floor—an expansive hall boasting a floating stage, capable of accommodating 42 visitors for unforgettable concerts and theatrical performances.

White Tower

The defining element of the White Tower resides in its remarkable collection of 104 3D-printed columns. These pillars provide structural support across different levels while simultaneously creating a striking façade. Ascending the central spiral staircase reveals a gradual transition from intimate, enclosed lower rooms with robust, squat columns to the ethereal, open spaces of the upper floors. Each column bears two levels of ornamentation: a horizontal material-driven ornament, resulting from extruded concrete printing processes, and a superimposed spiraling texture that accentuates the tower’s soaring stature. Crafted from white concrete, the structure emanates a delicate, weightless presence, accentuating the interplay of light and shadow. Illuminated at night, the White Tower becomes a radiant lantern, a guiding beacon adorning the historic Julier Pass Road.

Technologically, the White Tower pushes boundaries by utilizing a pioneering concrete extrusion process developed at DBT ETHZ. A robot meticulously applies successive 5mm-thin layers of soft concrete through a specialized nozzle, enabling the material to bond and harden rapidly, creating seamless and homogeneous components. Custom software plays a pivotal role in the design process, enabling precise geometry definition and seamless integration with the printing robots. This innovative construction method facilitates the efficient production of tailor-made elements that deviate from traditional norms, achieving forms that were previously unattainable.

White Tower

The project finds its setting in the village of Mulegns, a historically significant location nestled high in the Swiss Alps along the revered Julier mountain pass. Once a bustling stagecoach stopover connecting central Switzerland with the Engadin region, Mulegns flourished and attracted prominent individuals from across the globe. However, the passage of time witnessed the decline of the village, with numerous buildings falling into disuse and the population dwindling to a mere 16 inhabitants. Nova Fundaziun Origen, a foundation dedicated to preserving cultural heritage, endeavors to salvage the architectural treasures of the village and reignite its former glory. The White Tower project stands as a symbol of rejuvenation and renewal for this historic locale, paying homage to its storied past while reimagining its future.

Fundaziun Origen officially launched the White Tower project in Mulegns, Switzerland, on June 22nd, 2021. The construction of a full-scale demonstration floor is scheduled for 2022, followed by the meticulous assembly of this architectural marvel by 2023. The completion of the White Tower which is aimed by 2024 will mark a milestone in architectural history, a testament to the fusion of innovation, creativity, and reverence for cultural heritage.

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