'Digital Grotesque': Computers design gorgeous 3D-printed room

Project aims to defy architectural conventions with an elaborate, 3D-printed baroque grotto designed almost entirely by algorithms.

Digital Grotesque

A 3D-printed house has yet to be realized, but Swiss architects Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger are doing something a little more on the conceptual side at this point. In a project titled Digital Grotesque, they have engaged in what they're calling "computational architecture" by programming algorithms that can design deeply elaborate structures.

The resulting grotto contains more than 260 million surfaces, generated with 3D-modeling software in a process inspired by cell division.

"At a basic level, the algorithm used to generate the Digital Grotesque room functions by gradually refining and enriching a simple input form," reads the Digital Grotesque Web site. "The surfaces of a form are divided into smaller surfaces, and these in turn are divided again and again. Changes to one surface propagate down to its children. By altering the division ratios, one can control the geometry of the form.

"Using this simple process, one can create astoundingly complex geometries with only a few subdivision steps. By changing the division ratios, one can also generate a surprising variety of forms. The process remains entirely the same; only the division parameters are altered."

Digital Grotesque

The two architects input the basic shape of the room and left the algorithms to do their work. The resulting design was then 3D-printed in pieces of sandstone with a layer resolution of 0.13 millimeters -- a much more durable material than the more common plastics -- by Swiss industrial 3D-printing company Voxeljet AG. The process, in all, took around 13 months.

The grotto itself measures 172 square feet -- at 10.5 feet in height -- and contains 11 tons of printed sandstone.

"As a fictive narrative space, the Digital Grotesque project is less concerned with functionality than with the expressive formal potentials of digital technologies," the pair said. "It examines new spatial experiences and sensations that these technologies enable. As such, Digital Grotesque is a lavish, exhilarating space, full of details at the threshold of perception, waiting to be discovered and spurring one's imagination of what is yet to be created."

(Source: Crave Australia via Australian Popular Science)

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