DETAIL Readers’ Prize 2016: Armadillo Vault, Venice, Italy – Block Research Group - ETH Zurich, Ochsendorf DeJong & Block Engineering, Cambridge MA, and The Escobedo Group, Buda TX
Architects: Block Research Group - ETH Zurich, Ochsendorf DeJong & Block Engineering, Cambridge MA, and The Escobedo Group, Buda TX
Location: Venice, Italy
The engineering of the discrete shell used innovative computational approaches to assess stability under various load conditions. Each stone voussoir is informed by structural logic, by the need for precise fabrication and assembly, by the constraints of a historically protected setting, and by limitations on time, budget, and construction. The voussoirs are designed to be planar on the exterior to avoid the need to flip the stones during machining. Their interior sides’ doubly curved geometry was obtained through rough cutting. Rather than milling away the excess material left by this process, it was instead hammered off, leaving the resulting grooves as an expressive feature.
The shell’s dual appearance, scale-like on the outside and softly curving on the inside, is thus a direct materialisation of the project’s hard constraints. Standing without reinforcement, proportionally as thin as an egg shell, the expressively flowing surface structure challenges the idea that complex, freeform geometry need go hand-in-hand with inefficient and untruthful use of material.