Grotto interior view. Fabric  Photo: Dall'Anese

Grotto interior view. Photo: Fabrice Dall’Anese

Digital Grotesque II – a full-scale 3D printed grotto – has premiered at the Centre Pompidou’s Imprimer le monde exhibition.

This fantastically ornamental grotto demonstrates how leaps in computation and fabrication technologies can make new architectural worlds tangible. It turns a computational form of 1.3 billion surfaces into 7 tons of printed sandstone.

The grotto is optimized to present highly differentiated and diverse geometries that forge a rich and stimulating spatial experience for the observer. A subdivision algorithm was exploits the 3D printer’s full potential by creating porous, multi-layered structures with spatial depth. A single volume spawns millions of branches, growing and folding into a complex topological structure. Hundreds of square meters of surface are compressed into a 3.5m high block that forms an organic landscape between the man-made and the natural.

Standing in front of the grotto, one is struck by a hitherto unseen richness of detail that is at times overwhelming. Digital Grotesque II is a testament to and celebration of a new kind of architecture that leaves behind traditional paradigms of rationalization and standardization and instead emphasizes the viewer’s perception, evoking marvel, curiosity and bewilderment.

Digital Grotesque II in figures:
Algorithmically generated geometry with 1.35 billion surfaces
156 GB production data
3D printed out of seven tons of sandstone.
280 μm layer resolution
Dimensions: 3.45m x 3.1m x 2.0m
Design development: 2 years / 3D Printing: 1 month / Assembly: 2 days

Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger

Michael Thoma, Philippe Steiner, Matthias Leschock, Alvaro Lopez, Demetris Shammas, Allegra Stucki, Florentin Duelli, Jan Francisco Anduaga, Katharina Wepler, Lorenz Brunner, Nicolas Harter, Dominik Keller, Max Spett, and Alexander Canario

Partners and Sponsors:
Chair for Digital Buildings Technologies, ETH Zurich
Department of Architecture, ETH Zurich
Centre Pompidou, Paris
Christenguss AG
Bosshard & Co. Ag
Elektro Suter GmbH

Digital Grotesque II is a commission by Centre Pompidou, Paris, for its permanent collection. Research for the project was carried out at the Chair for Digital Building Technologies, ETH Zurich. The geometry was calculated on the High-Performance Computing Cluster EULER at ETH Zurich. Components were printed at Christenguss AG.


Grotto detail. Photo: Michael Hansmeyer

Grotto detail. Photo: Michael Hansmeyer


Grotto interior view. Photo: Demetris Shammas


Grotto front view. Photo: Fabrice Dall’Anese


Grotto top view. Photo: Michael Lyrenmann

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