Student Teams Win Composites in Architecture Design Challenge

Three photos of knitted tubes covered with resin, a woman standing behind them
Tubular Knitting final model. photo / provided
Silhouette of a person walking between translucent fiber columns
According to the student team, the knitted tubes could be "occupiable by human or building infrastructure." rendering / provided
hands braiding fiberglass strands on a round yellow form
Tubular Knitting model assembly. photo / provided
Drawing of a fruit and vegetable market under many arches canopies
Don't Leave Me Hangin' project rendering. rendering / provided
woman in a white jumpsuit standing on a step ladder strings rope on a wooden frame
Don't Leave Me Hangin' prototype model. photo / provided
diagram of a canopy made of braided rope with eight detail insets
Don't Leave Me Hangin' braid protoyping network. drawing / provided
Tubular Knitting final model. photo / provided According to the student team, the knitted tubes could be "occupiable by human or building infrastructure." rendering / provided Tubular Knitting model assembly. photo / provided Don't Leave Me Hangin' project rendering. rendering / provided Don't Leave Me Hangin' prototype model. photo / provided Don't Leave Me Hangin' braid protoyping network. drawing / provided
News
June 26, 2018

Independent study projects by students working with architecture faculty at the Cornell Robotic Construction Lab (RCL) won first and third place in the architectural division of the 2018 Composites Challenge. The student teams worked under the direction of Assistant Professor Sasa Zivkovic, with teaching associates Christopher Battaglia (M.Arch. '17) and Brian Havener (M.Arch. '18).

Organized by the American Composites Manufacturing Association (ACMA), the competition called for future structural and manufacturing approaches for fiber-reinforced-polymer (fiberglass) for architectural applications. The teams were urged to go beyond "designing with fiberglass," and to envision new "systemic methods and approaches" for the material.

First place went to Tubular Knitting, a system of light-weight, hollow spatial tubes that can be used as an alternative to columns. The composite material was fabricated by knitting strands of fiberglass, inflating them with a balloon, coating the inflated structure with fiberglass resin, then deflating the balloon, leaving behind a hollow tube.

Student Team:

  • Jingjing Liu (B.Arch. '21)
  • Jing Wei (William) Qian (B.Arch. '19)
  • Xiaohang (Gloria) Yan (B.Arch. '20)
  • Jingxin Yang (B.Arch. '21)
  • Yuheng (Amber) Zhu (B.Arch. '20)

Don't Leave Me Hangin' took third place. Subtitled "an investigation in frozen suspension," the project created a reusable light-weight dome based on catenary, a curve that describes the shape of a flexible hanging chain or cable — spiderwebs, for instance — using split and braided fiberglass strands.

Student Team:

  • Karolina Piorko (B.Arch. '21)
  • Song Ren (B.Arch. '19)
  • Veronika Varga (B.Arch. '21)

The teams accepted their awards and exhibited full-scale prototypes in the ACMA Composites Pavilion at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018, held June 20-21, in New York City. The prototypes were coordinated by Yan, with the fabrication team of Qian, Yang, and Zhu.

"The Annual AIA Convention is a great opportunity to present Cornell to a large audience of professionals in the architecture and building industries," said Zivkovic, who directs the RCL. "The result of a successful semester-long collaboration between students and architecture instructors at the RCL, the winning designs radically advance the structural and spatial possibilities of lightweight composites in construction."

For Battaglia, the projects developed for the competition held many benefits for students. "In the independent study context, we were able to explore how to use advanced materials, but also teach the students valuable lessons in how to set up a research agenda within an architectural context," he said. "Cornell has a rich history of making, and that spirit was evident in the winning proposals."

By Patti Witten