The V&A have marked the start of its Engineering Season with the unveiling of the new installation, Elytra Filament Pavilion. Elytra’s components have been fabricated by a robot at the University of Stuttgart and assembled on site in the V&A’s John Madejski Garden. The 200m² pavilion is the outcome of four years research on the integration of architecture, engineering and biomimicry principles and inspired by lightweight construction principles found in nature – the fibrous structures of the forewing shells of flying beetles known as elytra.
The pavilion will grow and change its configuration over the course of the V&A Engineering Season in response to data on how visitors use and move under the canopy. This information will be captured by real-time sensors installed in its canopy fibres. On 17 and 18 June and 22 September, visitors will be able to see the pavilion evolve as new components are fabricated live in the garden by a Kuka robot.
The pavilion’s canopy is made up of 40 hexagonal component cells which, on average weigh 45kg each and take an average of three hours to make. These cells and the pavilion’s seven supporting columns were created by a computer-programmed Kuka robot in a four-month construction process at the ICD’s Fabrication Hall in Stuttgart. To make each component, the robot wound resin-soaked glass and carbon fibres onto a hexagonal scaffold, before hardening. Each cell and column is individual. Its final form of densely-knit fibres is a direct result of the changing stress conditions determined through structural simulation and testing carried out in advance by the ITKE. This enables an exceptionally lightweight structure that weighs less than 9kg per m², which equals 2.5 tonnes for the entire pavilion.
Experimental architect Achim Menges with Moritz Dörstelmann, structural engineer Jan Knippers and climate engineer Thomas Auer have pioneered a unique robotic fabrication technique developed by the University of Stuttgart’s Institute of Computational Design (ICD) and Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE).
The pavilion is located in the John Madejski Garden and is free for visitors to visit and understand how advances in the technologies are inspiring new forms of design innovation. Elytra Filament Pavilion is one of the highlights of the V&A’s first ever Engineering Season, which is curated by Maria Nicanor and Zofia Trafas White of the Museum’s Design, Architecture and Digital department. The season is complemented by the exhibition Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design, which opens on 18 June, as well as a series of other displays, events and digital initiatives dedicated to global engineering design.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
For more information or book tickets, visit the V & A website here
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