Concrete Origami

This project researched parametric design and related fabrication methods for cementitious composite folded plate systems. As a proof of concept an arch was constructed as a prototypical folded plate system. The prototype was pre-fabricated in three segments and then mounted on the timber platform. The span of the arch is 6.6 m, its height is 2m, and the plate thickness is 22 mm.

The prototype investigates a new process for making complex folded plate systems out of cementitious composite materials: systems are subdivided into pre-fabricated units that are poured flat over a simple formwork. The joint lines are left free when adding the cement matrix. The mesh reinforcement continuous through these joints such that the flat system can be folded into its final three-dimensional configuration once the plates are sufficiently cured. The flexible joints are then made rigid by filling them with a high-strength expansion grout that cures rapidly. Once cured the folded system can be lifted up and mounted in its final position, supported by a temporary support that is eventually removed.

A variety of composites were tested as small specimen subject to compression and bending in order to determine the proper material mix for the full-size system. Based on the tests the plate joints were reinforced with a non-woven carbon fiber mesh, and the plates themselves were solely reinforced with 2 inch long synthetic fibers. The material properties of the composite (such as strength and modulus of elasticity) as determined in the tests were used to analyze the arch structurally and simulate stresses and deflections using finite-element analysis. Load tests on the arch will eventually compare the actual deflections under load to the prediction of the computational model.