[Image above] Credit: MaP+S

Is it possible to take a two-dimensional ceramic material and transform it into a three-dimensional ceramic structure?

Apparently, it is.

Researchers and students in the Material Processes and Systems Group (MaP+S) at Harvard Graduate School of Design created the world’s first all-ceramic grid shell, which was on display in Valencia, Spain, last month at Cevisama 2018, an international trade show for architectural ceramics, raw materials, natural stone, glazes, frits, and machinery.

“Ceramic Tectonics: Tile Grid Shell” is a three-dimensional structure with hexagonal and triangular patterns incorporated into the design. It tests the structural limits of large format ceramic tiles typically used as interior or exterior finishes, according to an article on Harvard’s Graduate School of Design website.

ceramic tectonics

Tile Grid Shell covers 13.5 m2 (145 ft2) of interior space. Credit: MaP+S

The self-supporting grid shell consists of 462 ceramic tiles fabricated from 6-mm thick ceramic tile. It contains 30 “ribs” that form the geometric patterns. With three support points, it stands 2.48 m (8 ft) high with a 6-m (20-ft) span between the supports, covering nearly 13.5 m2 (145 ft2) of space. And this thing isn’t light—the entire structure weighs 1,662 kg (1.8 tons).

And, as mentioned in the video description, the design integrates “a novel assembly sequence that eliminates the need for mechanical connections between intersecting ribs and allows each rib to be installed vertically from above.”

Consisting of 462 ceramic tiles, the structure stands 2.48 m (8 ft) tall. Credit: MaP+S

The researchers designed the shell into geometric compartments using mathematical calculations to determine what the components and their dimensions would look like and how they would fit together. They were also able to adjust dimensions and assembly tolerances during prototyping.

The project is part of a larger area of research that seeks to discover new applications for large ceramic tiles that would typically be used as a surface finish (think kitchens and bathrooms) or exteriors of buildings.

Who knows—Tile Grid Shell could qualify for a Tile of Spain Award. Stay tuned.

Watch the video below to see how the team fabricated this magnificent structure.

Credit: MaP+S, Vimeo

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