A striking, double-curved pavilion recently on exhibit at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City showcased an experiment with the materials and processes used in construction. The installation was framed using a knit textile that supports its thin concrete structure.
Dubbed KnitCandela, the piece is a tribute to Spanish-Mexican architect and engineer Félix Candela, who was known for creating magnificent curved structures out of concrete. KnitCandela is the brainchild of Zaha Hadid Architects’ computational design research group, which is known for innovation in design and construction technology. It was developed in partnership with Block Research Group of ETH Zurich and Architecture Extrapolated.
What makes KnitCandela unique is its support structure or formwork. Block Research Group created it out of four strips of seamless, double-layered fabric using a flatbed knitting machine. The strips, measuring from 49.2 to 85.3 feet in length, have a colorful pattern on the front, and the backside includes features for inserting, guiding and controlling the position of additional formwork elements. Ultralightweight, the entire formwork was delivered to Mexico from Switzerland in two suitcases.
The 13-foot high by 19-foot square structure was built by pouring concrete into a temporary mold. It was stretched between KnitCandela’s temporary boundary frame, then sprayed with a thin layer of cement to create a rigid surface that was supported by additional falsework elements such as a tensioned cable-net or bending-active splines. Once the exterior layer hardened, it was covered with fiber-reinforced concrete. Weighing just 122 pounds, the knitted framework supports the 11,023-pound concrete structure. For more information, visit www.zaha-hadid.com.
Unlike traditional timber or plywood formworks, the knitted textile that supports the curved KnitCandela has the potential to simplify construction processes, reducing labor, costs and material waste.