ACADIA Autodesk 2017 Research Project Award

ACADIA Autodesk 2017 Research Project Award

The Monolithic Earthen Shells project recieves the ACADIA Autodesk 2017 award for Emerging research.

Authors: Stephanie Chaltiel and Maite Bravo are very honoured to recieve the prize.


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Extract from the ACADIA 2017 proceeding on the Earthen Shells project:

This project explores the implementation of additive manufacturing for monolithic shells, based on the deposition of different clay mixes through robotic spraying over a temporary fabric formwork. The framework sits at the intersection of ancient construction traditions, digital modelling techniques, and robotic control protocols.
Raw mud can be found in ancient construction traditions, from mud huts to wattle and daub techniques, to the recent appearance of 3d printed extrusions in several academic research projects. Thin shell vaulting exhibit relevant precedents throughout the 20th century incorporating a variety of formwork methods for spray concrete, ranging from pneumatics to fabrics, to the recent fabric removable formwork and metal mesh reinforcement for robotic spray concrete (Veenendaal and Block, 2014).
This highly sustainable project is actively implementing the principle of “resistance through form” (Eladio Dieste, 1996) at the design stage, by using geometries with curvatures that result in active surfaces that are optimized and tested in 3d modelling softwares (Rhino 3d, Grasshopper and Karamba).
Robotic actions prove crucial to facilitate the laborious tasks associated with traditional craft techniques, providing control for the deposition of the correct thickness and homogeneity of the different clay mixes, allowing recalibrations according to matter changing properties (i.e. level of viscosity, humidity), permitting adjustments on the deformations and displacements experimented
1 Perforated earthen shells. Third layer of clay mix being sprayed robotically. This additive manufacturing technique allows freeform resulting structures. Iaac Seminar 2016.
Photos credits 1-12 by workshop´s participants
during depositions. The contribution of the earthen monolithic
shell project lies in being the only robotically spray clay research
on a temporary fabric formwork seeking full-scale prototyping.
Physical experiments have successfully completed the construction
of several 2m-height shell prototypes with 3cm thickness,
implemented in workshops such as the Smart Geometry, AA
visiting schools (Lyon 2012-2015), and IAAC seminars (2015-
2017). During the experiments, a precise iterative protocol was
implemented, consisting in sequential loops for the placement,
consolidation, and finishing. The placement stage starts with
a stretched fabric supported by a series of bending arches,
followed by fitting the robotic arm with a series of conventional
construction paint sprayer nozzles that deposit different types of
clay mixes. During several stages of the deposition, iterative 3d
scans are conducted to provide updated readings on the shell’s
evolution and to identify suitable thicknesses for each layer.
A digital mesh informs the continuous shell optimization by
highlighting tension, compression, and problematic areas. A
constant recalibration of the robotic spray provides adjustments
in the settings driving the robotic trajectories (Kuka prc) that
control the path, pressure, speed, and deposition angle. The
consolidation stage deposits clay mixes high in fibres to reach
appropriate thickness while providing a lightweight reinforcement.
The finish loop includes the removal by hand of the
temporary formwork and concludes with the final robotic application
of natural stabilizers. (…)

ACADIA President

  • Kathy Velikov

ACADIA Vice-President (Immediate Past President)

  • Jason Kelly Johnson

ACADIA Board of Directors (Includes Returning Members)

  • Behnaz Farahi
  • Adam Marcus
  • Gilles Retsin
  • Jane Scott
  • Skylar Tibbits
  • Phillip Anzalone
  • Dana Cupkova
  • Mara Marcu
  • Jose Sanchez
  • Lauren Vasey
  • Manuel Jimenez Garcia (alternate)
  • Christoph Klemmt (alternate)
  • Gernot Riether (alternate)
  • Mike Christenson (alternate)
  • Marcella Del Signore (alternate)
  • Andrew John Wit (alternate)