Forcing Tectonics

Project Directors: Dr. Nic Bao, Dr. Dan Luo & Dr. Xin Yan

Design Lead: Dr. Nic Bao & Dr. Xin Yan

Fabrication Lead: Dr. Nic Bao & Zhengxi Xian (3D printing); Dr. Dan Luo & Linzi Fan & Zhuoyang Xin (Robotic Weaving)

Student Assistants: Liming Liu, Zhuoran Chen, Zixin Wang, Ziyan Li, Xi Chen, Ziyang He


RMIT University, School of Architecture and Urban Design;
University of Queensland, School of Architecture and School of Civil Engineering;
Tsinghua University, Future Laboratory


Testing Grounds Emporium, 438 Queen Street, Melbourne VIC, Australia

Forcing Tectonics is an exhibition exploring the integration of generative design and digital fabrication in the creation of circular shell plates. These circular shell plates showcased in the exhibition are generated using a structural performance-based algorithm and fabricated using advanced manufacturing techniques that integrate robotic weaving and 3D printing to produce customized components and their future implications for architectural design. The exhibition speculates on the potential applications of digital and automated technologies in the design and fabrication process to significantly improve the productivity of customized non-standard design components and performative material composites, showcasing significant potential in the fabrication of building-scale components.

The new design technology and techniques showcased in the exhibition have demonstrated exceptional performance for large-scale customized architecture and structures. The highly flexible and structurally efficient composite material used in the fabrication process also has extraordinary sustainability benefits, significantly reducing waste in the formwork construction and de-moulding process.

Presented by the collaboration between RMIT University, the University of Queensland, and Tsinghua University, the exhibition features robotically fabricated prototypes that explore the potential of architectural form, structure, ornament, and tectonics through design. The project demonstrates the outcome of a new design and fabrication system for spatial structures based on a combined workflow of robotic weaving and 3D printing techniques. This technology provides a novel method for building adaptive, lightweight, sustainable, low-cost, and reliable structures. The proposed fabrication system showcased in this exhibition could be upscaled for application in the transportable building market, paving the way for highly customized building construction that is affordable, accessible, and environmentally friendly. It opens up new aesthetic possibilities in design and gains attraction from communities and cities for its low-cost and sustainable construction methods.

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