Group Project Nacre
Todd Petrie, B.Arch. 2020
Katherine Qian, B.Arch. 2020
ClassOption Studio: Matter, Design, Computation
Nacre, the natural composite found in the shells of mollusks, has a special place in the history of Abu Dhabi; it makes up the iridescent outer layers of pearls, which bolstered the first economic boom in the region. Inspired by the structural, material, and phenomenal properties of this incredibly strong and beautiful composite, we developed a new self-form-finding biopolymer and design project that shares the intrigue and beauty of nacre with the public through light and color. We also significantly advanced the third era of growth for the region—one that moves past oil and builds itself on green technology. Through rigorous testing of combinations of natural and synthetic materials, we found that a biopolymer made of calcium carbonate, chitosan, acid, and water (the same ingredients in natural nacre) when robotically printed in a method derived from the growth pattern of nacre crystals, would dramatically lift itself as it solidified to create thin-frame 3D forms. The infinite formal possibilities of this system suggest an efficient, biodegradable architecture with an inherent framework for structural color, which we harnessed in our project to activate Abu Dhabi’s beachfront, not just for the Maker’s District residents, but for the larger UAE public.