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Origami Inspired Concrete.

30 September 2016

Origami has inspired many concrete structures due to the inherent structural properties of the folded forms. The strength and workability of concrete, combined with technological developments, makes it possible to mimic complex folds often found in origami that can be used to frame a space as well as introduce striking design features.

  • Mülimatt Sports Education and Training Centre by Studio Vacchini Architects

  • Villeaceron Chapel by Sancho-Madridejos Architecture Office

  • Textilmacher Headquarters by Tillich Architektur

  • Concrete Reception Desk by Lowinfo for Morrow + Lorraine Architects

A great example of this can be seen with the concrete structure of the Mülimatt Sports Centre in Switzerland designed by Studio Vacchini Architects. Sports centres often need to span long distances and the concrete folded plate structure enabled this by supporting the roof loads without the need for metal frames and internal columns that can disrupt a space. The scale and repetition of the folded concrete shell also provides a dramatic aesthetic that allows light to enter all the way through the space.

As well as providing structural support, using concrete to form origami-like folds can generate varied interior forms that create interesting spatial dialogues between the interior and exterior. This can be seen with the Villeaceron Chapel designed by Sancho-Madridejos Architecture Office where the folds were a key concept in manipulating natural light to define the internal composition.

In some cases, origami can form the basis of inspiration primarily for aesthetic reasons. Munich architect firm Tillich Architektur, for instance, used the concept of folds and creases to create a defined concrete surface for the facade of the premises of a textile-printing company. The sharp lines of the concrete folds catch the light differently depending on the time of day, adding visual interest by deforming the simple cubature of the building.

We have also worked with the concept of origami forms in conjunction with Morrow + Lorraine Architects to create a multifaceted polished concrete reception desk. Acting as a striking focal point for a renovated reception area, the desk comprises of a 15mm thick glass reinforced concrete shell with bull-nosed edging. Tom Bowman, Director at Lowinfo Design said “It’s the most complicated single cast we have made to date. The manufacturing process evolved during the project and we were really pushing the boundaries of the material. It was well worth it…the result is fantastic!"

Like paper, concrete is a singular, unifying material that can be engineered to form folds that can increase the strength of the material with aesthetic appeal. The concept of origami when combined with concrete therefore has wide ranging possibilities for both structural and aesthetic design solutions that will continue to develop in line with technological advancements, pushing the boundaries of the material.

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