Asymptotic Gridshell - What can be built using straight planar laths?

​This question was investigated in a two-day workshop in the course Digital Tools – Parametric Design (3 ECTS) for second year students at the Architecture and Engineering program. The workshop was organized by teachers and invited co-organizers, a group of architects and engineers with specialism in computational design working in academy and industry. The goal was to inspire the students to learn more about mathematics and how it can be applied in the architectural design process. The task was to build a temporary structure to be used as an exhibition space in just two days utilizing all forty students. By combining historical and modern references a timber gridshell was designed based on the concept of using asymptotic lines which was built flat and erected to 3-dimensional form. Asymptotic lines are curves on surfaces with no normal curvature, by extruding these curves in the normal direction the resulting surfaces can be unrolled straight and planar without distortion. Therefore, the design was possible to build using laths which were both straight and planar. By making a flexible slot connection the structure was built as a mechanism that allowed it to change its shape.
The entire structure was built in just two days by the students with the help of teachers and invited co-organizers. The geometrical concept allowed the laths to be made of regular birch plywood boards of 6 mm using only manually operated tools. The boundary base plates for attaching the structure, giving support and stiffness, was milled using the CNC-machine in our wood-workshop. 

The workshop was not only a successful experiment but the reception from the students was also very positive. In the student evaluation of the course Digital Tools – Parametric Design the workshop was explicitly stated as one of the best segments, and the course was given an overall score 4.8 out of 5 for the second year in the row reaching a top placement at Chalmers. Hopefully this type of exercises, combining theory and application, will inspire a new generation of architects and engineers to learn more about math and geometry and how it can be used in the design process.

Teachers: Emil Adiels & Isak Näslund
Co-organizers: Cecilie Brandt-Olsen (BIG Engineering), Johanna Isaksson (Buro Happold Engineering) & Emil Poulsen (Core Studios Thornton Tomasetti).
Videos from the workshop and the design process can be seen here:

Published: Wed 05 Jun 2019.