IaaC Students Develop a Passive Cooling System from Hydrogel and Ceramic

Courtesy of IAAC Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia

Students at the Digital Matter Intelligent Constructions studio at Barcelona‘s Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia have created a composite facade material of clay and hydrogel, which is capable of cooling building interiors by up to 6 degrees centigrade. Entitled Hydroceramic, the material utilizes the ability of hydrogel to absorb up to 500 times its own weight in water to create a building system that “becomes a living thing as part of and not outside of it.”

Read on after the break for more on how Hydroceramic works.

“Why Are There Not Skyscrapers with a 100-Foot Curtain Wall of Art Glass?”

© Flickr CC user Aidan McRae Thomson

Most contemporary architects probably don’t spend too long thinking about stained in their everyday practice – and for the “art ” industry, that’s becoming a big problem. In a fascinating article for the Wall Street Journal, Timothy W Martin carefully examines an industry that has been in decline for decades, ever since glass designer Kenneth von Roenn warned them in a 1970s conference speech that it was “time to jump ship” and diversify from their work in religious buildings.

New Research Proves that Iron Was an Important Medieval Building Material

At Beauvais Cathedral, iron ties that were thought to have been added centuries after construction were instead dated to the early 13th century. Image © Flickr CC user James Mitchell

The Gothic cathedrals of the middle ages have long been respected as sites of significant architectural and structural experimentation. Hoping to reach ever closer to God, the master masons of the period took increasingly daring structural risks, resulting in some remarkably durably buildings that are not only timeless spaces for worship but miraculous feats of engineering. However, according to new research by a team of French archaeologists and scientists, we still haven’t been giving these historic builders enough credit.

Though iron components feature in many Gothic buildings, often forming structural ties to stabilize tall stone buttresses, it was previously assumed that these were later additions to shore up precarious . However, thanks to a highly sophisticated carbon dating technique, the team consisting of the Laboratoire archéomatériaux et prévision de l’altération, the Laboratoire de mesure du carbone 14 and “Histoire des pouvoirs, savoirs et sociétés” of Université Paris 8 have shown that iron fixtures were an integral part of cathedral construction techniques from as early as the late 12th Century – meaning that many buildings from the period were essentially hybrid structural systems.

How Simple Earth Blocks Could Revolutionize Construction for the African Island of Pemba

Local block maker Ali Cedric making blocks for sale in Pujini, Pemba Island. Image © Craig Norris

Pemba, a small Tanzanian island off of Africa‘s Eastern coast, is undergoing something of a construction boom. With half of the population aged under 30 and a culture in which a man must build a house before he can get married, a wave of new informal housing is sweeping the island. Historically, construction methods used by the islanders have been problematic: traditional wattle & daub construction typically survives for just 5-7 years; its replacement, bricks made of coral, not only require large amounts of energy to extract but have a devastating effect on the environment; and modern cement bricks most be imported at high costs.

Sensing an opportunity to help the islanders at a critical time in their development, Canadian NGO Community Forests International is promoting a solution that combines the economy and sustainability of wattle & daub with the durability of masonry: Interlocking Stabilized Compressed Earth Blocks (ISCEBs). Find out how this simple can help the island community after the break.

Recycling In Practice: Perkins + Will Finds New Life for Cardboard Tubes

Phase one view of the ‘tube wall’. Image Courtesy of Perkins + Will

In architectural offices, the tubes used in large-format rolls of paper seem to multiply at an alarming rate, populating every nook and cranny until they fill the rafters. The team at Perkins + Will Boston have invented a cheeky solution to stem cardboard tube proliferation in the form of a privacy screen that behaves simultaneously as a sound and visual barrier, and as a storage space. Composed of dozens of reclaimed cardboard tubes fitted into a CAD-mapped and cut plywood frame, the ‘wall’ provides ample opportunities for drawing storage, sunlight mitigation, and playful interaction without disrupting workflow.

Find out more about Perkins + Will’s solution to cardboard tube waste after the break

How Cutting Edge Technology Helped Recreate the Stella Tower’s Concrete Crown

Screenshot from video by JDS Development Group

In some projects, preservation isn’t just about retaining what’s there, but also about putting back an element that has been forgotten to history (not always, though). This was the case at the Stella Tower in Manhattan, where as part of the building’s recently completed condo conversion, JDS Development Group and Property Markets Group, along with architects CetraRuddy have reinstated the dramatic Art Deco crown of Ralph Walker’s 1927 design.

Material Masters: Le Corbusier’s Love for Concrete

To celebrate the first anniversary of our US Materials Catalog, this week ArchDaily is presenting a three-part series on “Material Masters,” showing how certain materials have helped to inspire some of the world’s greatest architects.

Le Corbusier‘s love affair with concrete, evident in a number of his nearly 75 projects, began early. Having already designed his first house, the Villa Fallet, at the age of just 17, in 1907 the young architect embarked on a series of travels throughout central Europe on a mission of artistic education. In Paris, he apprenticed at the office of Auguste Perret, a structural rationalist and pioneer of reinforced concrete, followed in 1910 by a short stint at Peter Behrens’ practice in Berlin. These formative experiences initiated a life-long exploration of concrete in ’s work.

Material Masters: Glass is More with Mies van der Rohe

To celebrate the first anniversary of our US Materials Catalog, this week ArchDaily is presenting a three-part series on “Material Masters,” showing how certain materials have helped to inspire some of the world’s greatest architects.

Mies van der Rohe, famous for his saying “less is more,” was one of the preeminent modernist architects, well known for pioneering the extensive use of in buildings. His works introduced a new level of simplicity and transparency, and his buildings were often referred to as “skin-and-bones” architecture for their emphasis on steel structure and enclosure. In addition to , glass was a major influence for many architects of the modernist movement and reshaped the way we think about and define space. Today, glass has become one of the most used building materials, but its early architectural expression is perhaps best exemplified in the works of Mies.

Material Masters: Shigeru Ban’s Work With Wood

To celebrate the first anniversary of our US Materials Catalog, this week ArchDaily is presenting a three-part series on “Material Masters,” showing how certain materials have helped to inspire some of the world’s greatest architects.

Shigeru Ban’s portfolio is a strange dichotomy, split between shelters for natural disaster refugees and museums commissioned by wealthy patrons of the arts. Even stranger is the fact that, in both cases, Ban’s material palette frequently incorporates recycled , paper, and old beer crates. The Pritzker prize laureate is unique in this regard, and so great is his predilection for recycled paper tubes (originally formwork for concrete columns), that he has become known as the “Paper Architect.” His work receives media attention worldwide for the unorthodoxy of its construction materials. Yet is not concerned with unorthodoxy, but with economy. It is for this reason that, when paper tubes are deemed unsuitable, constructs his buildings in wood. Inspired by the architectural tradition of his native Japan, Ban is not only the “Paper Architect,” but also one of the most famous architects working in wood today.

Cristina Parreño Investigates the Tectonics of Transparency With Glass Wall Prototype

© Jane Messinger

Architect and MIT Lecturer Cristina Parreño has created this new prototype for a self-supporting facade, entitled “The Wall.” The design is the first in Parreño’s “Tectonics of Transparency,” a series of planned prototypes that will “explore the relationship between formal design, spatial perception, structural efficiency and systems of fabrication.”

More details about Parreño’s prototype after the break

Emerging Objects Invents Earthquake-Proof 3D Printed Column

Courtesy of Emerging Objects

A team of California-based designers have invented an earthquake-proof column built of 3D printed sand, assembled without bricks and mortar to withstand the harshest seismic activity. The ‘Quake Column‘ is comprised of a pre-determined formation of stackable hollow bricks which combine to create a twisting structure, optimized for intense vibrations in zones of earthquake activity. Created by design firm Emerging Objects, the column’s sand-based composition is one of many in a series of experimental structures devised by the team using new for 3D Printing, including salt, nylon, and chocolate. The column can be easily assembled and disassembled for use in temporary and permanent structures, and was designed purposefully with a simple assembly procedure for novice builders.

Find out how the Quake Column works after the break

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Develops 3D Printing Process at the Mircoscale

This electron backscatter diffraction image shows variations in crystallographic orientation in a nickel-based component, achieved by controlling the 3-D printing process at the microscale. Image Courtesy of ORNL

3D printing  continues to advance, developing new applications which are particularly promising for the world of architecture. Now, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have demonstrated a new manufacturing process that can create 3D printed metal components with an unprecedented degree of precision. For architecture, this could mean greater control over the customization of the smallest components in buildings, as well as more carefully engineered properties of the larger ones.

The new technique involves an additive process in which successive layers of material are laid down with computer control and fused to create an object of almost any shape. As technology has progressed, printers have been able to progressively increase their resolution, enabling the creation of smaller parts with smoother surfaces. ORNL has developed a process that precisely manages the solidification of metal parts in each layer on a microscopic scale. This enables them to better control local material properties, which can have a profound impact on the strength, weight, and function of 3D printed metal components.

Read on to learn more about how this manufacturing process could shape the future of .

Bartlett Students Invent Skeleton-Inspired Structural Material for Lightweight Construction

A team of graduates from the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London have developed a new hybrid building material designed for use in uniquely challenging construction environments. “Augmented Skin” combines a regimented structural core with a flexible opaque skin, which is coated in PVA to serve as casting formwork for . Inspired by biological skeletal frameworks, the material can be assembled quickly at a minimal cost with maximum flexibility. The project was designed by architecture graduate students Kazushi Miyamoto, Youngseok Doo, and Theodora Maria Moudatsou, and was exhibited at The Bartlett’s 2014 graduation exhibition B-Pro.

Read more about the flexibility of Augmented Skin after the break

Ohio State Researcher Team Invents Combined Solar Cell and Battery

Nanometer-sized rods of titanium dioxide (larger image) cover the surface of a piece of titanium gauze (inset). The holes in the gauze are approximately 200 micrometers across, allowing air to enter the battery while the rods gather light. Image Courtesy of Yiying Wu, The

A new developed by researchers at Ohio State University has the potential to increase the efficiency and decrease the cost of generating and storing the sun’s energy. Led by professor of chemistry and biochemistry Yiying Wu, the team has created a combined solar cell and lithium storage battery with an efficiency of electron transfer between the two components of almost 100%, in a design which they believe will reduce costs by up to 25%.

“The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy,” Wu said. “We’ve integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost.”

Read on after the break for more on the news

Pratt Institute Students Create Sinuous Screen Wall From Concrete Blocks

© Lawrence Blough via the Architect’s Newsaper

Students from the Pratt Institute have created a wall of concrete blockwork… but not like any you’ve seen before. Challenged by their tutors Lawrence Blough and Ezra Ardolino to produce something highly customized from something highly standardized – the 8-by-8-by-24-inch AAC brick – the students used Rhino software and a CNC miller to create a 96-block screen wall composed of 20 different block profiles. “The earlier stuff I’d done was trying to use as much off-the-shelf material as I could,” said Blough. “Here we decided to really push it, and to take on more of the ideas of mass customization.” Find out more about the project at the Architect’s Newspaper Fabrikator Blog.

AD Interviews: Benton Johnson / SOM

Inside the Pavilion at this year’s AIA Convention, we had the chance to chat with Benton Johnson of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) about SOM’s research on using wood for highrise buildings. Although wood is a sustainable and efficient material, it hasn’t entered the world of skyscraper construction yet. However, through their Timber Tower Research Project, SOM has come up with a structural system for skyscrapers that uses mass timber as the main structural material and consequently minimizes the building’s carbon footprint.

“Architects should focus on using wood for these types of because we do think of it as the way of the future. Energy and resources are just going to become more and more important going forward, and mass timber technology has no way to go but up,” Johnson explains.

Three Self-Healing Materials That Could Change the Future of Construction

The aggregate of this concrete contains bacterial spores that fill in any cracks in the material. Image © UCL, Institute of Making/Robert Eagle via flickr

Buildings, regrettably, don’t last forever. Until recently, the only way to increase a building’s lifespan was ongoing maintenance, which can be expensive, time-consuming and in the case of infrastructure such as bridges or roads, inconvenient. Beyond that, periodic replacement of the entire structure was an option, however this is clearly not a sustainable solution, especially considering the amount of CO2-releasing concrete used in modern .

But in the 21st century, another alternative is emerging. This article on CityLab uncovers three self-healing materials that could significantly extend the lifespan of a construction, including Erik Schlangen‘s asphalt that re-sets itself with a dose of induction heating, concrete developed at TU Delft (and elsewhere) that patches up cracks with the help of its living bacterial aggregate, and a recent discovery by MIT scientists that some metals have self-healing properties.

Read the article in full here, or carry on after the break for our own coverage of Erik Schlangen and TU Delft’s work in self-healing materials.

“Shell Lace Structure”: Tonkin Liu’s Nature-Inspired Structural Technique

Courtesy of

Continuing recent research trends in the ways can inspire new architectural methods and typologies, London-based architecture practice Tonkin Liu in collaboration with engineers at Arup, have developed a single-surface structural technique called Shell Lace Structure. The innovative technique takes advantage of advanced digital design, engineering analysis, and manufacturing tools. Read on to learn about their upcoming book and exhibition that reveals the process behind this nature-inspired material.