The central connector is made from stainless steel using DMLS technology. Photo: Marirena Kladeftira

Bamboo is a high-quality, fast-growing raw material with extraordinary properties. As a building material, it is comparable to hardwood, and yet it is extremely light and elastic. For this reason, bamboo has been used for centuries – including in earthquake-prone parts of Asia. Now, students from ETH Zurich have used the material to construct a five-metre-high bamboo pavilion weighing just 200 kg. Jutting out in three directions, it has an area of over 40 m2. Built by students completing a master’s programme in Advanced Studies in Architecture and Digital Fabrication, the structure is reminiscent of the vaults of a Gothic Tudor cathedral, yet it is also based on cutting-edge technology.

It uses more than 900 lengths of bamboo, held together by connectors which were designed digitally and made with millimetre precision by a 3D printer out of high-strength nylon and stainless steel. The pavilion has a total of 379 intersections. Thanks to the digital process used, all of the components could be generated automatically and developed to meet the relevant mechanical requirements. In the case of the bamboo pavilion, this does not just relate to the complex geometry itself: it also includes the tolerance needed for assembly and the natural material. So that the pavilion provides shade, the students also designed panels made from a recyclable, UV-stable, malleable plastic on a lightweight Lycra fabric. These were likewise made by a 3D printer. The structure is presented in detail on a project website. As well as being sustainable, it can be used for different purposes: because the tailor-made components are so small, they can be made using a 3D printer anywhere in the world and combined with local materials. The modular structure makes it possible to assemble and dismantle the pavilion quickly.

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