Have you ever noticed that futuristic architecture in sci-fi films rarely follows the straight lines and right angles traditional architecture is known for? Illustrators hoping to create a glimpse into the future intentionally design things that look unusual. They focus on creating architecture that no one has ever seen before.
It turns out such architecture is no longer exclusively the stuff of sci-fi. It is reality. Thanks to the emergence of composite materials for construction applications, architects are coming up with some incredible designs that defy everything we know about buildings.
Anyone heading to Dubai Expo 2020 in October will get a first-hand glimpse of modern architecture in all its glory. That glimpse will begin as they enter the expo grounds through one of three designated entrances. Each entrance is currently being fitted with a 21-meter high lattice structure made possible by carbon fiber and additive manufacturing.
A Lattice in the Sky
Early photographic images of the three portals definitely impress. They show the portals as large, rectangular boxes that look as though they have been constructed using lattice work. Indeed, your first glance might have you thinking you are seeing a lattice in the sky.
Building the portals was a matter of combining high-grade carbon fiber fabric with an epoxy resin chosen specifically for the job. The impregnated fabric was then wrapped around a form that provides internal support for the structure. Finally, all of the forms were joined together to create the finished structure.
Thin but Strong
You can surmise from looking at the pictures that the lattice work was intentionally designed to be as thin as possible. The architect’s goal in designing the structure was to display both 2D and 3D spaces simultaneously in a piece of architecture that has not been seen anywhere before. He certainly accomplished that.
It almost looks like the structures are floating in space. The lattice work is so thin that it looks like it could easily blow away in a stiff Dubai wind. Choosing carbon fiber as the primary construction material guarantees the portals are strong enough to withstand Dubai’s natural environment.
The Future of Composite Architecture
The entrance portals to the Dubai Expo 2020 are by no means the first example of architectural engineering with composites. Nor will they be the last. Composites are quickly catching on with architects because of what they allow in terms of design. Architects can do with composite materials things that are just not possible with their more conventional counterparts.
Materials like carbon fiber and fiberglass make it possible to design extremely complex facades supported by more traditional internal structures. Better yet, internal structures can be hidden out of sight in most cases. The right design can lead to a building that seems to defy the laws of physics even though it does not. Composites make it all possible.
The Age of Composites is Now
We often classify ancient history according to the materials humans used to make their tools and build their structures. For example, most of us familiar with the iron and bronze ages. Could the next hundred years or so eventually be classified as the composites age? Possibly. One thing we do know is that composites are now coming into their own.
Today, carbon fiber is used across almost every industry and application imaginable. Companies like Rock West Composites are at the forefront of this movement, designing and manufacturing carbon fiber materials for cutting-edge projects.
Steel and aluminum ruled the architectural world at one time. They still have a place at the table, but they are slowly being replaced by better composite materials. The same is true for concrete, wood, and a variety of other materials architects have relied on for so long.