Stonematters, A Prototype of a Massive Stone Vault

AAU Anastas
Jericho, Palestine
2017

AAU Anastas, and in collaboration with GSA Lab of ENSA Paris-Malaquais,  recently opened Stonematters, examining the use of three-dimensional free-form stone vaults in Palestine. The results of the research will be used for the construction of the el-Atlal residency in Jericho.

© Mikaela Burstow

Stone matters is built on an innovative construction principle allowing for unprecedented forms for such structures. The architectural innovation is born from structural morphology and stereotomy. The vault covers a surface of 60 m2 and spans 7 meters with a constant depth of 12 cm. The geometry follows the shape of a minimal surface on which geodesic lines are drawn and set the pattern of the interlocking stones. The whole structure is made of 300 mutually supported unique stone pieces.

Beyond the scientific and technical issues that make Stonematters a unique object, the project represents as well a cultural challenge: it has been entirely built with available know-hows in a peripheral zone of the culturally marginal city of Jericho. Processes of several factories have been combined in order to use existing known techniques for new uses. The polystyrene blocks, for example, have been roughly cut in a factory and transported to another for a robotic carving process. Right after its completion Stonematters attracted curious inhabitants of Jericho and elsewhere in Palestine, putting together the seeds of the future el-atlal artists’ and writers’ residency.

© Mikaela Burstow

© Mikaela Burstow

© Mikaela Burstow

Until the beginning of the previous century stereotomy, or the art of cutting and assembling stones, played an important role in the aesthetics as well as in the structural construction principles. Today’s stone factories only produce standardized blocks of few cm, used as cladding of a reinforced concrete structure. The techniques used for building with stone have an effect on the speed of construction, the urban spread of territorial boundaries, and the morphology of all buildings. In other words, stereotomy and the construction methods leave a trace on the Palestinian landscape.

Reinvigorating stereotomy as a way of optimizing structural performance using advanced design simulations is the founding principle of stone matters. Based on geometrical parameters as the overall shape, the density of the paving, the inclination of contact surfaces, the size of the voussoirs, and number of voussoirs types, a specific structural criteria can be improved. The whole process is an in-progress workflow which will aim at using computational design and advanced fabrication techniques in order to present a modern stone construction technique as part of a local and global architectural language.

Stone cutting

The geometry of the vault follows the shape of a minimal surface on which geodesic lines are drawn and set the pattern of the interlocking stones. The whole structure is made of 300 mutually supported unique stone pieces. Each stone has 4 incliced interfaces, that allow the assembly of the different stone voussoirs.

Based on geometrical parameters as the overall shape, the density of the paving, the inclination of contact surfaces, the size of the voussoirs, and number of voussoirs types, a specific structural criteria can be improved.

 Formwork carving

The formwork of the vault is made out of blocks of polystyrene of variable heights, carved with the shape of each stone. When arranged together they form a continuous counter-form of the entire structure. On each block, stones are referenced and placed at their exact position.

© Mikaela Burstow

© Mikaela Burstow

© Mikaela Burstow

 Stone mounting

Stone voussoirs are assembled on the mounted polystyrene blocks. Each stone’s location is defined on the formwork. The mounting started from the upper center of the vault progressively advanced towards the edges in a concentric process. The inclined interfaces between the stone voussoirs generate the interlocking system of the structure.

© Mikaela Burstow

© Mikaela Burstow

Details

 Axonometric view

Plan

Facade 01

Facade 02

Formwork diagram

 The project during the opening © Mikaela Burstow

© Mikaela Burstow

Project information

Program: Prototype of massive stone vault
Area: 62 m2
Location: Jericho, Palestine
Architects: AAU ANASTAS
Research lab: SCALES and GSA Lab ENSA Paris-Malaquais
Status: Completed on March 18, 2017

USED STONE CHARACTERISTICS

Name: Injassa
Density: 2650 Kg/m3
Modulus of rupture: 9.2 Mpa
Compressive Strength: 96 Mpa
Shear Strength: 4,6 Mpa
Water absorption: 2%

For previous articles about AAU ANASTAS click here

 

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