SheltAir

Quelle: Gregory Quinn
Quelle: Gregory Quinn
Quelle: Gregory Quinn
Quelle: Gregory Quinn
Quelle: Gregory Quinn
Quelle: Gregory Quinn
Quelle: Gregory Quinn
Quelle: Gregory Quinn

This pavilion investigates the use of air-filled cushions to rapidly, safely and cheaply erect beautiful and structurally efficient elastic gridshells for events and humanitarian causes. Scientifically developed by Gregory Quinn for his doctoral thesis at the Berlin University of the Arts, Course of Architecture. This pavilion is being exhibited on the UdK’s doorstep: the newly renovated Steinplatz. 

Opening Reception: 17 August 2018, 2 pm

Dates: 17 August - 14 October 2018

Place: Steinplatz, 10623 Berlin - Charlottenburg

Elastic gridshells such as Frei Otto's Multihalle in Mannheim are highly efficient structures, able to cover large spans with very little material or embedded energy. The simplicity of these structures lies in their ability to generate beautiful doubly-curved shell surfaces from slender and initially straight beams. While elastic gridshells are efficient in their built-state, the existing methods to erect them are usually associated with significant complexity, cost and time. This method which makes use of pneumatic falsework (i.e air-filled cushions) has the potential to greatly increase the speed of construction for large-span shells (i.e. up to 100m in a matter of days), which would have groundbreaking implications on construction costs and efficiency with promising potential for application in rapidly deployable event covers and shelters. 

Simple, beautiful and functional

The importance of large shelters for medical treatment, social convalescence and religious gatherings in refugee or disaster stricken areas remains underserviced due to the necessary focus on smaller family dwellings but also due to the cost, time, complexity and energy demands associated with their construction. Based on rigorous & groundbreaking research, this holistic solution facilitates the fast, safe and low-energy erection of elastic gridshells by means of pneumatic falsework i.e. air-filled cushions. Benefits are found in the ability to generate large, stiff and beautiful doubly curved shells from slender and straight beams with very little material or embedded energy. This 13m pavilion in the garden of the Aedes Metropolitan Laboratory Berlin was built to test and validate the researched method but also to demonstrate its architectural potential. The biomimicry of the shell curvature and repeating patterns of the grid complement the sustainability aspects of the solution and offer a refreshing contrast to typical planar shelter systems.

Low-tech implementation: high-tech simulation

The implementation & construction for the proposed solution is purposefully and necessarily low-tech. However the physical interaction between the elastic curves of the beams with residual stresses and the pneumatic form of the cushion in relation to the architectural target shape (e.g. a funicular) is particularly complex. Bespoke simulation methods have been developed based on a novel dynamic relaxation solver which is insensitive to the system’s transience between dynamic (inflating) and static (inflated) states. Simulations and physical prototypes have produced a breadth of results which determine, for example, which spans, curvatures and pressures are feasible and suitable with this method. The amount of design freedom permitted within the constraints of the solution is considerable.

Modern materials

Rods: nylon-sheathed glass fibre reinforced plastic (pultruded) / Membrane: PVC-coated polyester fabric / Foundation plate: Hot-dip galvanized and laser cut steel (6, 8 & 10mm) / Cables: 7x19 strand steel wire 3mm / Cable-Rod connectors: thread-tapped trellis wire connectors / Ground anchors: ram-driven steel screws / Membrane-tensioning: Nylon rope 8mm

Enabling and sustainable technology

The practical benefits of elastic gridshells, such as low material usage and fabrication simplicity, are undermined by the existing methods for their erection (lift up, push up & ease down) which are time-consuming, costly and can overstress the system. This novel method has extremely low demands on energy, material consumption and construction. Only very simple blowers for low temporary pressures (under 3 mbar) are required. For larger spans, the cushion membrane can be suspended from the shell in the end-state to form a second architectural skin. The inner and outer membranes (both lifted with the gridshell) can create a thermally insulating volume of air. Repetition and simplicity of predominantly linear construction elements is extremely high and all manual labour is conducted at ground level.

For more information contact Gregory Quinn, quinn_ @udk-berlin.de, +49 (0)176 64972827

SheltAir - erection video