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AA Stuttgart Visiting School - Graded Membranes

Event Details

AA Stuttgart Visiting School - Graded Membranes

Time: July 24, 2017 at 10am to August 2, 2017 at 5pm
Location: Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK), University of Stuttgart
Street: Pfaffenwaldring 7
City/Town: Stuttgart
Website or Map:…
Event Type: workshop
Organized By: Architectural Association & ILEK
Latest Activity: Mar 30, 2017

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Event Description

The aim of the AA Stuttgart Visiting School is to explore contemporary practices of materially-graded, complex geometry design, moving away from mainstream explorations of single/isotropic materials and linear/planar tectonics. Within this new field of investigation, the Stuttgart VS will be researching into novel techniques of material mixtures and grading, associative design and double curvature surface generation.

For the second cycle of this exploration we will be based at the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) at the University of Stuttgart. Drawing from the Institute’s long history of experimentation and research on tensile structures instigated by Frei Otto in the 1960s and conducted at present by Werner Sobek, this year we will be focusing on the design and fabrication of materially graded membranes, as well as the application of UHPC and FGC on fabric formworks. The workflow followed will be divided into two stages:

1. Computing Membranes: Computational form finding methods will be taught by professional engineers and architects from ILEK and str.ucture GmbH. The aim will be to utilise the latest software technologies to form find membranes for textile structures, or fabric formworks for complex concrete structures. The results will be evaluated against criteria such as internal air pressure, as well as asymmetric and wind loading. The outcome of this research will inform the material grading procedures (i.e. changing the stiffness, thickness or porosity of the membranes themselves, or the consistency of the concrete poured into the formworks) that will follow in stage two.

2. Fabricated Grading: The digitally computed membranes or formworks will eventually be fabricated physically, utilising the workshop and robotic fabrication facilities at ILEK. The objective will be to rethink conventional research on tensile and concrete structures as isotropic constructs, by customising attributes such as materiality, reinforcement, rigidity, translucency, patterning, and porosity among others. The final, graded prototypes will be made up of mixtures of materials, all accurately engineered to respond to variable environmental, structural and aesthetic criteria, in essence forming multi-material structures that have finally caught up with the latest material developments.

Prominent Features of the workshop/ skills developed:

Teaching team consisting of AA diploma tutors and ILEK and str.ucture GmbH engineers.

  • Access to the Institute of Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK), the Materials Testing Institute and Concrete Spraying Robotic facilities at the University of Stuttgart, as well as to the office of str.ucture GmbH Structural Design Engineering.
  • Computational skills tuition on Grasshopper, Rhino Membrane, and Karamba.
  • Lectures series by leading academics and practitioners in architecture and engineering.
  • Fabrication of functionally graded membrane and/or concrete structures.


The workshop is open to current architecture and design students, PhD candidates and young professionals. Software Requirements: Rhino (SR7 or later) and Grasshopper.


The AA Visiting School requires a student fee of £595 and a young professional fee of £895 per participant, which includes a £60 Visiting membership fee.

The deadline for applications is 10 July 2017.

For more information, please visit:

For inquiries, please contact:

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