The world continues to strive for a better and efficient future. From the advancement in technology, there comes a responsibility to have an improvised platform for experimentation and implementation. This is not only applicable to a specific field but to all that contributes to the progression of tomorrow. The importance of looking for innovative means to develop and bring forth new materials to be integrated into architecture and engineering will remain prevalent in all times.

Turning the clock back to the 1960s, a composite material stepped onto the experimental floor called ‘Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP)’ when Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome evoked a vision leading into the time we are living in today. FRP turned out to be a ground-breaking invention, facilitating designers with the possibility and flexibility to achieve parametrically or digitally attained organic forms. Its high-efficiency characteristics, such as corrosion resistance, UV resistance, thermo-mechanical properties, lightweight, customizability, etc. makes it top the priority list in the time of contemporary architecture and megastructure engineering.

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Image Sources: Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome ©In the Sculpture Garden: Buckminster Fuller

There are different types of FRP depending upon the type of fibers used, i.e., carbon, glass, aramid, Kevlar, and aluminum with polymers like epoxy, nylon, vinyl-ester, and polyester. It is manufactured and fabricated by the use of multiple molding techniques like contact molding, vacuum molding, compression molding, resin injection molding, or filament winding. The application of this fabrication involves two common methods.

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Image Sources: Facade of the SMFOMA expansion ©Gallery of SFMOMA Expansion / Snøhetta
  • To segment the basic component into a large number of smaller pieces.
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Image Sources: Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv ©ECommerce Cosmos-International ETail Consulting Agency
  • To segment the basic form into a small number of larger pieces.

Its application ranges from kitchens, hospital rooms, public restrooms, dining rooms, hallways, recreational areas, offices, classrooms, cooling towers, and other secondary spaces. They are easy to install and can turn any wall into a super wall with its pioneering characteristics, such as sanitary protection for it can be cleaned with regular detergent, steam, or be hosed down with a high-pressure wash.

FRP is used to sculpt contemporary designs, as well as, typical geometry. The morphologies applied to produce these computer-generated ideas are flat, curved, double-curved, orthogonal, but most commonly double-curved. There is a competition in the field to create non-repetitive and unique designs. This involves the use of FRP as structure, cladding, or structural cladding itself. The practice of FRP opens a novel path to form-finding, which can be done by the Blonder’s fabrication method.

Renowned firms like Foster + Partners, Snøhetta, and Zaha Hadid Architects, have put it into use to accelerate the construction process and durability of the building. Projects that demonstrate the worthwhile application of this material in double-curved morphology are as follows:

1. Lincoln Park Zoo Pavilion by Studio Gang is a tortoise-inspired pavilion with interconnected fiberglass curved pod panels embedded into the comb of a bent wooden frame.

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Image Sources: Lincoln Park Zoo Pavilion by Studio Gang – 2005 © Arch2O – Pavilion – Jeanne Gang – www.Arch2O.com

2. The Chanel Mobile Art Pavilion, by Zaha Hadid Architects, was built under the consultancy of construction experts Edwin Shirley Projects. The pavilion could be dismantled and transported to different locations easily because of its lightweight. Each panel of a different concave-convex curve conceals the insulation layer underneath. The double-curved scratch-free, thermal resistant, fire-resistant, and UV resistant panels turned it into a smart investment.

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Image Sources: Chanel Mobile Art Pavilion by Zaha Hadid- 2008 ©Chanel Mobile Art Pavilion © Photo Courtesy ES Global Solutions

3. Haramain High-Speed Railway Station by Foster + Partners, works on the principles of wayfinding, reduction of felt temperature, and structure stability, along with user comfort. The FRP panels used in the roof as a lightweight element provides flexibility, thermal comfort, and light control.

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Image Sources: Haramain High-Speed Railway Station ©Foster + Partners, Haramain High-Speed Rail / Foster + Partners, Photo Courtesy: Nigel Young

FRP continues to astonish us by paving its way through the civil and structure domain. Its capacity to withhold the weight and corrosion factor allow its application as a structural member in retaining walls, highway bridge superstructures and bridge decks for pedestrians, supporting frame structure, multi-story office, and residential building, electricity transmission towers, and composite piles for the foundation. It has also been used in bridges in the development of the anti-collision system: the fixed composite bumper system, the large-scale floating composite bumper system, and the floating composite bumper system.

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Xinmengge Bridge, China Vessel Anti-Collision Devices ©Vinh Hung JSC
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Wuhan Yingwuzhou Yangtze River Bridge, China ©www.brdi.com

It is also used for seismic retrofitting. Soon FRP sheets, bars, and strips will replace the conventional techniques and materials of construction like concrete, timber, etc. From underground water pipes to the decking for marine and naval structure, FRP stands out for its extraordinary strength and novel features.

REFERENCES:

1. Blonder, A., & Grobman, J. (2015). Design and fabrication with fiber-reinforced polymers in architecture: a case for complex geometry. Architectural Science Review, 59. www.doi.org/10.1080/00038628.2015.1020479
2. Chanel Mobile Art Pavilion. (n.d.). Architen Landrell. Retrieved May 25, 2020, from www.architen.com/projects/chanel-mobile-art-pavilion/
3. Connections and structural applications of fiber-reinforced polymer composites for civil infrastructure in aggressive environments | Elsevier Enhanced Reader. (n.d.). www.doi.org/10.1016/j.compositesb.2018.11.047
4. Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP) in Construction, Types, and Uses. (2010, March 9). The Constructor. www.theconstructor.org/concrete/fibre-reinforced-polymer/1583/
5. Haramain High-Speed Rail / Foster + Partners. (2019, June 14). ArchDaily. www.archdaily.com/919039/haramain-high-speed-rail-foster-plus-partners
6. Hota, G., & Liang, R. (n.d.). ADVANCED FIBER REINFORCED POLYMER COMPOSITES FOR SUSTAINABLE CIVIL INFRASTRUCTURES. 11.
7. managing, F. B. F. L. J. R. is a former writer with T. B. who covered large-scale construction H. is an engineer with experience, & Rodriguez, overseeing large civil works construction R. T. B. editorial policies J. (n.d.). FRP Turns Drywall Into Super wall. The Balance Small Business. Retrieved May 24, 2020, from www.thebalancesmb.com/fiberglass-reinforced-panels-frp-panels-844834
Syeda Neha Zaidi
Author

With an ambitious spirit to explore the world, Neha has embarked upon building her professional journey beginning from UAE, to Egypt, to what future holds next; to uncover the “extraordinary” in the places we see as ordinary keeping one eye ahead of the time and deeper into how architecture influences socio-culture, norms and behavior.

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