Fibre-based Projects

Hybrid Tower

Hybrid Tower project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between CITA – Centre for IT and Architecture, KET – Department for Structural Design and Technology, Fibrenamics, Universidade do Minho, AFF – A. Ferreira & Filhos SA, Caldas de Vizela, and Essener Labor für Leichte Flächentragwerke, Universität Duisburg-Essen.

Architecture is not static
Hybrid Tower is a project within a bigger project called “Complex Modeling” which main goal is to develop hybrid structures creating a resistant and dynamic structure. Due that it was build a 10 metres tower in fabric which was exposed for the first time last year in the Design Museum of Denmark and it was appreciated for lots of people.

Resilience was the concept chosen as the first driver to design this project. In this context resilience is understood as the capacity of recovering and bending to changes or external stimuli. Specifically, this means to be able to support not only its own weight but live loads like the wind.  The design strategy consisted on develop structures in which resilience was defined as the capacity of the material to absorb energy when elastically deformed and then release this energy after the discharge. This design requirement could be a starting point to a potential application in the industry.

Where architecture is traditionally conceived as static, this approach positions adaptability as the idea of reducing stiffness, allowing for deformations and thus minimizing material use.

Architecture, design and textile engineering holding hands
In one of the COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) meetings, CITA members invited Professor Raul Fangueiro, coordinator of Fibrenamics platform, to participate in the development of a 10 metres tower where they could ally architecture, art and textile engineering.

In that way, professor Raul accepted the invitation since it was a big project and Fibrenamics is always available to participate in new challenges. Raquel Carvalho, Fibrenamics investigator and responsible for the project, said “CITA colleagues were during 3 days at Fibrenamics installations where we had developed in our loom some structures, with the requirements previously established: they had to be flexible, but could not be as flexible to the point with the wind or rain it can not stand up”.

It was the main goal, thought, to produce a fabric structure with channels where glass fiber rods could be introduced to make the tower supports vertically. “We did some structures to allow them to see the configuration of the fabric, if it has the right texture, the right transparency… then it was selected the structure with the best properties”, said Raquel Carvalho. Before this, CITA responsibles had been done a research because it was important, as the tower would be exposed to the environment, that some characteristics should be accomplished. So they chose to use high tenacity polyester.

After that, and because Fibrenamics only have a prototyping machine, it was necessary to find an industrial partner that would like to collaborate in this project, AFF. CITA did the design of the tower, the characterization tests of the mechanical properties of the selected structure were responsibility of Fibrenamics and of a German University (Universität Duisburg-Essen), which also held multiaxial tensile tests. AFF participated in a more advanced stage of the tower development, based on the prior development conducted by the research team of the Fibrenamics Fibrous Materials. Filipa Monteiro from AFF explained that “the fabric development had two different stages: the development of the structure of the fabric, which create all the visual impact, transparency and aesthetic/dynamic effect intended (developed by Fibrenamics); and the creation of engineering solutions that enable the placement of a ‘skeleton’ of composite materials (produced by external entities) within the fabric”. Once produced, the tower modules were sent to Denmark where the assembly and tower display occurred.

After all, “textile is not only clothing”
In Fibrenamics opinion this project essentially brought recognition because it was possible to prove that textile is not only clothing. The technique used by Fibrenamics for the production of the structures was a totally conventional textile technique: it consisted in, in a single step, building various structures, called patchwork (the functionality where is required).

“Basically, Fibrenamics showed that textile is not only clothing, can be art and architecture”, ensures Raquel Carvalho. The clear distinction is in the materials that have been used which have suitable mechanical properties to be exposed to the sun, rain or snow, or are capable of resisting to weather variations.

To AFF, this project was like a way of cooperative work in the creation and development of new knowledges in the textile area. As Filipa Monteiro said “the technological transference inherent of activities of this nature allows  AFF to work its creative capability in an area, that, although using the same technology and equipment of its core business, have different needs and requirements, opening new horizons to the company”. Filipa Monteiro also assumed that “this project demonstrates the great potential of hybrid structures for architectural applications.”

This project resulted in a paper presented at the conference “VI International Conference on Textile Composites and Inflatable Structures – Structural Membranes 2015” where the public opinion was very positive.

In Mette Thomsen words, designer involved in the project, the Tower “demonstrated the potential application of flexible textile materials”, being expected that, “in a medium to long term, the use of these new materials will be common in the architecture and construction sector”.

Next stop: Guimarães
Based on the promising results of this project, it was decided to continue the same, and is currently in development of a new approach. The Tower will have a different design but the concept will remain the same.
AFF will be responsible for the development of the fabric and for the engineering solutions, always based on the acquisition of knowledge gained from previous experience.
The assembly and exhibition of this new tower will take place this year in Guimarães.

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Hybrid Tower