If you happen to be wandering around the culturally rich streets of Mexico City, you might just stumble upon a colorful, alien-like structure with immaculate curves and a decorative interior. Currently propped up at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), this newly erected pavilion is called KnitCandela, the latest collaborative work from Zaha Hadid Architects and ETH Zurich.
This vibrant and bodacious structure was created with a 3D-knitted textile technology called KnitCrete. This technique is used to create curving concrete structures, effectively eliminating the need for expensive and time-consuming molds. The architects claim that the system is easily portable, and streamlines the manufacturing process for complex double-curved concrete shapes.
As an integral part of Zaha Hadid Architects’ first-ever exhibition in Latin America, the KnitCandela pays homage to the famous Spanish-Mexican architect Félix Candela, known for integrating curved concrete shells into his buildings. While the structure itself is certainly a sight for sore eyes, the 3D-knitted textile technique used to produce it is arguably even more fascinating.
To create the KnitCandela, the first step in the KnitCrete process was to knit over two miles of yarn into four strips. The fabric was produced in just 36 hours with the digital fabrication technique and was packed in suitcases before being flown from Switzerland to Mexico.
Once they arrived at MUAC in Mexico City, the strips of double-layered fabric were suspended from a wooden frame. From there, the team inserted around 1,000 modeling balloons between the fabric layers until the desired shape was formed. The exterior was then covered in a special cement paste to transform the pavilion into a rigid structure.
The textile strips are equipped with elements that make it easier to control the shape of the balloons after they are inserted and inflated. Once the structure is cast in concrete, the pockets of air create a waffle shell-like shape. The colorful striped fabric is draped underneath the structure, which evokes the free-flowing folds similar to those found in the traditional Mexican Jalisco dress.
The KnitCrete process is unique in that it fuses digital fabrication with traditional construction methods. While the fabric is woven using the 3D-knitted textile technology, the concrete is manually added by hand.
Although the KnitCandela is perhaps the largest structure created by Zaha Hadid’s team with 3D technology, it’s far from their first foray into this type of fabrication. In the last year, we’ve also seen the design firm showcase sleek 3D printed chairs at Milan Design Week, as well as the New York City condo-inspired H-Line hat.
License: The text of "Zaha Hadid Architects and ETH Zurich Create Concrete Pavilion with 3D-Knitted Formwork" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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