ACMA Announces Winners at Composites in Architecture Design Challenge

The American Composites Manufacturers Association’s (ACMA) announces winners at the first ever Composites in Architecture Design Challenge, sponsored by Ashland Performance Materials. The top three finishers will also receive a cash prize.

For the challenge, ACMA’s Architectural Division asked students to work in teams to develop an innovative composite architectural/building component or assembly. The teams were encouraged to explore and invent new, and sometimes radical, architectural designs.

UCLA's team at the Composites in Architecture Design Challenge awards ceremony.

UCLA’s team at the Composites in Architecture Design Challenge awards ceremony.

UCLA win first place with their “Undulating Gills” entry created by UCLA architecture students Anna Kudashkina, Yifan Wu, Yuekan Yu, Shahr Razi, Simi Shenoy, and Marcelo Marcos, who worked on the project under the direction of SUPRASTUDIO lecturer Julia Koerner within a technology seminar known as Animated Fibers. The team’s project incorporates composite fabrication of “mega-panels” while integrating robotic technology to fabricate panels without a mold. The result was a twisting structure that creates a “parametric relationship between a series of panels to allow for lighting control on a facade.”

The team’s main technique is to twist and robotically manipulate a single infusion bag with several panels inside. This reduces the amount of time and material in the fabrication process. Other advantages of mass production robotic controlled infusion are the ability to control precise form changes and increased possibility for on-site building.

The UCLA School of Architecture & Urban design received material support from ACMA members Composites One and Polynt Composites, which according to Koerner, helped make the magnitude of the design possible.

Second place finishers are students from the Architecture Program at Temple University Tyler School of Art.

Temple University students at awards ceremony.

Temple University students at awards ceremony.

Ashland Performance Materials and Windsor Fiberglass provided the materials for Temple’s project, including Ashland HETRON FR 650 T-20 resin. The students’ paper notes a number of advantages of using fiberglass for this type of project. First, the weight of the structure is much lower than it would be if wood or steel were used. As a result, it has a much higher strength-to-weight ratio. The lightness of the structure also results in significant cost savings – potentially thousands of dollars in comparison to wood or steel.

Under the direction of Brian Szymanik, associate architecture professor, Temple University students Daniel Cruz, Sean Moss, and Kerry Hohenstein create an alternative design for Philadelphia’s storied Schuylkill River Grandstands in Fairmount Park. The students’ re-design, known as the “B3OCC Pavilion” (B3 Pavilion Optimized Composites Colonnade), accommodates over 700 spectators for crew races along the river. The pavilion is a semi-transparent, web-like structure made with fiberglass composites.

Students from the Georgia Tech School of Architecture respectively take third place in the design challenge. Georgia Tech’s team was supported by the expertise of David Riebe from Windsor Fiberglass and Mike Stevens from Ashland.

Georgia Tech team at awards ceremony.

Georgia Tech team at awards ceremony.

Under the direction of Professor Daniel Baerlecken, Georgia Tech students Chantale Martin and Jose Garza de la Cruz’s “Balloon Panel” entry aims to eliminate the need for a mold while achieving two finished surfaces.

Martin and de la Cruz use a four-step production process to create the panels. First, they impregnate fiberglass sheets with resin. They then lay the wetted sheets over balloons, which are followed by an acrylic sheet. After that, frames are put in place. Once framed, they use a vacuum to spread the resin evenly and create two finished surfaces.

By combining the outward-pushing forces of balloons with the inward-pulling forces of a vacuum, they achieve a beautifully textured form while evenly distributing resin to create a highly finished surface for their panel. The vacuum allows the volume of the “balloons” to disperse and pack more efficiently. The resulting panel is lightweight, three-dimensional, and easily scalable for a multitude of applications.

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