Achim Menges is one of the most prominent architects known for building construction using robots and carbon fibers. He is the director of the Institute for Computational Design at Stuttgart University and has researched extensively in the field of computational design, biomimetic engineering, and computer-aided manufacturing. His working methodology is mainly co-designing which includes working with design, engineering, fabrication, construction, materials, and building, through which he has shown how we can push ourselves to design better and remove the existing barriers. He has written about 17 books and worked on 170 papers so far, here is a list of 15 most prominent works.

1. Elytra Filament Pavilion

The Elytra Filament Pavilion is an example of the 4 years of research on the integration of architecture, engineering, and biomimicry principles. The structure is inspired by the fibrous structures of the forewing shells of a flying beetle species called elytra. The structure covers an area of 200 square meters and each square meter weighs 9kg. The main aim was to learn from nature how minimal use of materials maximum form can be achieved. The pavilion is made with an innovative winding method and carbon fibers to create a cell-like module that is manufactured with robots at the University of Stuttgart. This pavilion is located at Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2016, and Vitra Campus, Weil am Rhein, 2017.

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Image 1 – Elytra Filament Pavilion at Vitra Campus ©www.menges-scheffler.de
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Elytra Filament Pavilion at Victoria and Albert Museum ©www.menges-scheffler.de
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Fabricated parts of the pavilion at University of Stuttgart ©www.menges-scheffler.de

2. ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2010

The pavilion reflects an alternative approach to computational design and form-finding. The form is created digitally with the physical behavior and material characteristics of the birch plywood strips. The plywood is cut with robots at the University of Stuttgart and is made in the integration of material-oriented computational design, simulation and production processes. The entire structure covers more than 12 meters of diameter and is made with only 6.5 millimeters of thin birch plywood sheets.

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View of the final pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net
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Night view of the final pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net
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Physical behavior of the material when bent is computerized ©www.achimmenges.net

3. ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2011

This bionic research pavilion explores the architectural implications of the biological principles of the sea urchin’s plate skeleton morphology. This structure is modeled through the computational design process and seven-axis robots are used to economically manufacture the 850 geometrically different components and more than 100,000 finger joints. This pavilion is also made to reflect the fundamental biological properties like heterogeneity of cells, anisotropy, and hierarchy in architecture.

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Interior View of the pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net
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Night interior View of the pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net
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View of the pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net

4. ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2013-14

The research pavilion explores the biological properties through computational design and innovative robotic fabrication. This development aimed to make a modular, double-layered structure and reduce the framework requirements and at the same time to get geometric freedom of the structure. The research pavilion covers an area of 50 square meters and encloses a volume of 122 cubic meters which weighs only 593 kg.

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View of the pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net
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Closeup view of the pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net
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View of the pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net

5. ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2014-15

This research pavilion is made exactly on the process of how a water spider makes its home with a single water bubble and then reinforcing it with fibers to create the habitable space. This process of development required robots to solve the problems in real-time, for that a special system of working, custom robots are made to create the building. This project gave a new way of robotic construction and how it can be used to solve real-time issues automatically.

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The water spider building its home ©www.achimmenges.net
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Construction phase of the pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net

6. ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2015-16

The research pavilion is made on the concept of how an organism grows and the same method of construction is followed. This pavilion also expands the opportunities of timber architecture through an innovative method of construction. The design aims to create a semi-exterior space that perfectly resembles the topology and shows how the structure can be made adaptable to a topography.

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Material differentiation alters the physical behavior of the material
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View of the pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net
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The joinery details ©www.achimmenges.net

7. ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2016-17

The research pavilion aimed to construct a structure for a long span structure, the inspiration for the structure came from two species of leaf miner moths, the Lyonetia clerkella and the Leucoptera erythrinella, which weaved a “hammocks” structure between the two ends of bent leaves with the silk they produced. With the invention of glass fiber and carbon fibers, the method of construction could be made more versatile using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and robots for more precise and easy construction. This pavilion shows the possibilities of long-span structure using robotic fabrication and weaving fibers through a unique process developed to construct the pavilion. The structure is 12 meters in span and weighs about 1000kg covering a surface area of 40 square meters.

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Silk woven by moths on the surface of leaves ©www.achimmenges.net
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Construction of pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net
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View of the pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net

8. BUGA Fibre Pavilion 2019

The fiber pavilion is a great example to show how co-designing can be performed to advance the existing technology. The pavilion is made using glass and carbon fibers to create the digitally fabricated structures using robots at the University of Stuttgart. The pavilion covers an area of 400 square meters and has a free span of 23 meters. This load-bearing structure is composed of 60 bespoke fiber composite and a transparent ETFE membrane over it and the structure weighs only 7.6 kilograms per square meter.

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Construction of pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net
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View of the pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net

9. HygroScope: Meteorosensitive Morphology

HygroScope is a sculpture that exhibits how a material can be made using a combination of material inherent behavior and computational morphogenesis. The lamina of the wood shows bending properties on different levels of moisture content on-air and this concept is used to build this climate responsive architecture model. The model is kept in a humidity-controlled glass box and visitors can see how the system works. The five parameters which define the physical properties of the material are the fiber directionality, the layout of the natural and synthetic composite, the length-width-thickness ratio, and geometry of the element, and the humidity control during the production process.

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The HygroScope ©www.menges-scheffler.de
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The HygroScope at closed state ©www.menges-scheffler.de

10. HygroSkin: Meteorosensitive Pavilion

This pavilion is also based on the principle of how humidity affects the properties of mood making it meteorosensitive in nature. It is a perfect example of how meteorosensitive material can be put in architecture and response to the climate. The pavilion responds to weather change from sunny to the rainy season.

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The development of HygroSkin ©www.menges-scheffler.de
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The closeup view of HygroSkin ©www.menges-scheffler.de
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The HygroSkin ©www.menges-scheffler.de

11. Responsive Surface Structure 

This project aimed to create a surface that will become porous and allow cross ventilation on the change of relative humidity in nature. Here the timber lamina has been used and computationally designed to visualize the structure, create models, and make the system more efficient. Timber lamina is used due to its change in dimension in response to change in relative humidity and this process of change is reversible.

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The bending of timber lamina in just 18 seconds
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The nature of the surface designed ©www.achimmenges.net
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The surface structure produced ©www.achimmenges.net

12. 3D Spacer Textile Composites

This project aims to develop a continuous 3D textile glass fiber surface with the process of form-finding with some parameters of the material. Form finding is a technique to let the material self-organize under the influence of extrinsic forces or manipulations. The parameters that were considered in the development of these materials are overall double curvature, structural depth, and bending stiffness of the system.

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The texture of the material ©www.achimmenges.net
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The material exposed in UV rays ©www.achimmenges.net
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The lighted-up structure ©www.achimmenges.net

13. BUGA Wood Pavilion 2019

The pavilion takes the advanced timber construction to one another level. The structure of the pavilion is based on the structure of the base skeleton of sea urchins and it aims to create more form and efficiency with less material. To create the double-layered surface of the pavilion two robots were specially programmed and developed in a single platform of 20 feet to ease the manufacturing and reduce the production cost. The load-bearing pavilion makes a space of 30 meters column-free span weighing only 38 kilograms per meter square.

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The double surface developed for pavilion ©www.achimmenges.net
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The robot’s functionality during manufacturing ©www.achimmenges.net
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The robots on a single platform for manufacturing

14. Urbach Tower

On the application of wood characteristics of deformation from moisture change, this tower is developed. Generally, moisture damages the wood, but when the wood uses the deformation in a pre-programmed way and controls the stress, the full potential of the wood can be achieved. The tower consists of a 12cross-laminated timber structure of 90 mm thickness and weighing only 38 kilograms per square meter.

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The deformation of wood under moisture difference
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The different components of the structure ©www.achimmenges.net
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The manufacturing process ©www.achimmenges.net

15. Humboldt Laboratory

Based on the concept of “open university” space is designed for exhibition and reflecting research and science. Space aims to the generation of knowledge from the spaces itself and is based on the understanding of how humans interact with the objects around them. The modules are designed in a way so that the layout can be changed for different purposes too.

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View of the exhibition space ©www.menges-scheffler.de
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Ways human perceives a space ©www.menges-scheffler.de
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Layout of the exhibition space ©www.menges-scheffler.de

It’s a unique age of technology we are living in and what we know about nature is just the tip of the iceberg. The method of co-design, understanding the potential of materials from nature, and innovation through material engineering will take us a step further to co-existing with nature.

Author

Souktik is a creative architecture student with a passion for architectural designs. He loves to research extensively on every field and shares his thoughts through visual illustrations. He is also an honest, kind-hearted person and an all-rounder.

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