Ronald Rael & Virginia San Fratello
Berkeley, CA, USA
Ronald Rael / Emerging Objects Virginia San Fratello / Emerging Objects
Kent Wilson / University of California Berkeley (Project Manager) Alex Schofield / University of California Berkeley (Production Assistant Leader) Sofia Anastassiou / University of California Berkeley (Production Assistant) Yina Dong / University of California Berkeley (Production Assistant) Alex Niemeyer / Emerging Objects (Production Assistant) Ari Oppenhiemer / Emerging Objects (Production Assistant)
Siam Research & Innovation Co. LTD.
Bloom is a 9 foot tall freestanding tempietto with a footprint that measures approximately 12 feet by 12 feet and is composed of 840 customized 3D printed blocks. The experimental pavilion represents a new paradigm in building construction methods. A pattern derived from traditional Thai flower patterns is mapped onto the surface of the structure that creates a figural pattern and stunning visual effect of light, shade and shadow on the exterior and interior. Each block is printed using a farm of 11 powder 3D printers with a special cement composite formulation comprised chiefly of iron oxide-free portland cement. Iron oxide imparts a gray color to cement, and its removal makes this print much lighter. The blocks are assembled into 16 large, lightweight prefabricated panels, which could be assembled in just a few hours. Each block has a printed structural grid that defines the interior of the tempietto and requires no additional structural support, functioning as a load-bearing 3D printed enclosure. The curvilinear shape gives added stiffness to the thin, lightweight structure, informed by the thin masonry structures of Uruguayan architect and engineer, Eladio Dieste, particularly Iglesia Cristo Obrero, Jefferson’s serpentine brick walls at the University of Virginia, and Torqued Elipse, by Richard Serra, which inspires its form.
For several years, Professors Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello have been developing unique 3D printing material combinations, including wood, salt, rubber, glass, clay and cement that often use recycled material, use very little water, are inexpensive and possess structural capabilities. the Siam Cement Group (SCG Thailand) sought out the expertise of Rael and San Fratello, co-founders of the 3D printing company Emerging Objects, to research the development of a 3D printable cement using their iron-oxide free portland cement product. The aim of the research was to produce a demonstration pavilion to showcase the outcomes of the research that included design and fabrication workflows, and the structure, assembly, and aesthetic potential of 3D printing.
The 3D printed cement developed by Rael requires no formwork and produces no waste and the support material can be reused to produce more blocks. Coupled with portland cement is an ecologically derived UV resistant polymer that reduces the greenhouse gas emissions from production of resins by 50% over conventional petroleum based epoxies that uses plant-based materials that do not compete with food sources or displace food-based agriculture. Each 3D printed block is enumerated to designate the blocks position in the overall structure. Rather than a set of blueprints, a spreadsheet that demonstrated the position of a block, was used in constructing Bloom, and each block is assembled and held in place using stainless steel hardware. In plan Bloom is a curved cruciform shape that rises 9 feet to meet the same shape rotated 45 degrees, creating a torqued “x” shape with an entrance 45 degrees off of the structures axis. The undulated form and spaces recalls an elephants foot or, when coupled with the flower pattern on the surface, the traditional mud houses of the Tiebele people in Ghana — a reference to the earliest inspirations for 3D printing by Rael and San Fratello. After being printed in Berkeley, California, Bloom has now traveled to Thailand in order to demonstrate the technology in the Siam Research and Innovation headquarters.