Concept

Digital Grotesque aims to create an architecture that defies classification and reductionism. It explores unseen levels of resolution and topological complexity in architecture through compositional strategies based on purely geometric processes.

Digital Grotesque appears at once synthetic and organic. The design process strikes a delicate balance between the expected and the unexpected, between control and relinquishment. The algorithms are deterministic as they do not incorporate randomness, but the results are not necessarily entirely forseeable. Instead, they have the power to surprise.

Digital Grotesque is between chaos and order, both natural and the artificial, neither foreign nor familiar. Any references to nature or existing styles are not integrated into the design process, but are evoked only as associations in the eye of the beholder.

As a fictive narrative space, the Digital Grotesque project is less concerned with functionality than with the expressive formal potentials of digital technologies. It examines new spatial experiences and sensations that these technologies enable. As such, Digital Grotesque is a lavish, exhilarating space, full of details at the threshold of perception, waiting to be discovered and spurring one's imagination of what is yet to be created.


Design by Algorithm

In computational design, the architect no longer develops form by pen on paper or by mouse in CAD program, but instead defines procedures to generate form. Shifting the design process onto this abstract level has a dramatic impact: Forms can be designed with a complexity and richness that would be impossible to draw by hand. Now these complex forms can be brought out of the computer using additive manufacturing. Bits and bytes can be rendered directly into reality.

The combination of computational design and additive manufacturing can lead to a non-standardized, highly differentiated and spatially complex architecture that is defined at the scale of millimeters.


Articulation through Subdivision

In the Digital Grotesque project, a simple input form is recursively refined and enriched, culminating in a geometric mesh of 260 million individually specified facets. The surfaces of an input form are divided into smaller surfaces, and these in turn are divided again and again. Changes to one surface propagate down to its children. By altering the division ratios, one can control the geometry of the form.

While computational geometry in architecture is often used to create volumes with smooth, minimal surfaces, in the Digital Grotesque the design goal is the exactly the opposite. A maximal articulation of the surface creates a volumetric depth, where light is reflected in million different directions and the boundaries of the architecture are spatially diffuse.


Fabrication

Digital Grotesque is the first human-scale immersive space entirely constructed out of 3D printed sandstone. A complex geometry consisting of millions of individual facets is printed at a resolution of a tenth of a millimeter to dimensions of a 3.2-meter high, 16 square meter large room. Its geometry was entirely designed through customized algorithms.

Digital fabrication has been one of the key drivers of the latest evolution in architecture. The digitalization of design processes has overcome many of the limitations of industrial mass-fabrication: it allows a large degree of customization paired with high efficiency and precision.

Today additive manufacturing introduces a paradigm shift within digital fabrication: just as with printing ink on paper, the amount of information and complexity of the output is no longer a relevant constraint.


3D sand-printing process
Sand removal and cleaning
Surface coating
Gilding

Prototypes

The application of 3D printing technology in architecture has up to now been limited to prototyping or producing small-scale models. Material costs are high, machines have limited scales, and the majority of materials are not strong enough to fulfill construction requirements.

Sand-printing technology has recently emerged as an additive manufacturing technique that overcomes these limitations. This technology is currently used primarily to create casting forms in for industrial applications. Yet it has unique features that make it suitable to create architectural components. Specifically, it allows the fabrication of large-scale elements (currently up to 8 cubic meters in size) with high resolution and accuracy at a competitive price and in short period of time. The printed sandstone elements can be fully self-supporting and can be assembled as a solid construction.

1:3 scale prototype white

Installation

Digital Grotesque takes additive manufacturing technology to a true architectural scale. Digital Grotesque presents a fully immersive, solid, human-scale enclosed structure with a perplexing level of detail. Its geometry consists of hundreds of millions of individual facets printed at a resolution of a tenth of a millimeter, constituting a 3.2-meter high, 16 square meter large room. A total of 11 tons of sandstone are printed at a resolution of 0.13mm. While the design development took one year, printing took only two weeks, and assembly is completed in a single day.


Video: Digital Grotesque - Printing Architecture


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