Delicate Pavilion Is Printed in Concrete
By Catherine A. Cardno
Concrete is not typically described as delicate. But "Bloom," a tempietto unveiled at the Berkeley Circus, may change that. The 9 ft tall undulating structure not only has an exterior modeled on a lacelike motif of traditional Thai flowers, which allows light to permeate the structure's exterior, it also redefines the capability of concrete as a material.
"'Bloom' represents a continued line of ongoing research—six years—into the possibility of creating durable, strong, and inexpensive materials for use in architecture," said associate professor of architecture Ronald Rael who created the pavilion.
Each block was formed individually so that the result is a very delicate pattern—and a structure far larger than the machines used to create it. "'Bloom' demonstrates the feasibility of building using 3-D printing in ways that are precise, beautiful, meaningful—and structural," Rael said.
While the form of the tempietto is impressive and the creation of the individual bricks complex, there is something more fundamental that sets this concrete structure apart from typical concrete creations: "In the United States, 60 percent of the cost of a concrete structure is in the formwork," Rael said. "3-D printing with cement does not require formwork, thereby reducing waste, and potentially cost, as well as having the possibility to create shapes that are not possible to make with traditional methods.
"Every part of this is unusual when compared to traditional construction methods that employ cement," he added. "Very little water is used. No formwork is needed. Parts can be created with undercuts."
While there are a few people in the world experimenting with 3-D printing with cement-based materials, "all are extruding wet cement through a nozzle to produce rough panels," according to a statement made by Rael and released by the university. "We are mixing polymers with cement and fibers to produce very strong, lightweight, high-resolution parts on readily available equipment.
After its unveiling in Berkeley, the tempietto was dismantled and sent to SRI for the start of a worldwide traveling exhibition.