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Back to the Future of Stone Engineering: Armadillo Vault at the Venice Biennale


Back to the Future of Stone Engineering: Armadillo Vault at the Venice Biennale

Can you imagine a vault made of rock that stands strong without any mortar? If not, than go to Venice Biennale’s incredible installation known as Armadillo Vault, developed by ETH Zurich holds hundreds of limestone slabs with no glue.

Apparently, light structure and curvilinear smooth silhouette of this work of architecture are an incredible back to the future in engineering. The whole installation is a structure that achieved equilibrium state by adopting a mechanism of a ‘right’ geometry corresponding to the applied loads. Known as funicular geometry, it is not a new concept. Medieval vault builders have done a number of similar complex forms carefully balanced in compression. Each considered today a masterpiece and yet none of them was made without cement.

What is brand new is the technologic approach that helped the return of the forgotten know-how. The Armadillo Vault was engineered employing a compression technique tested with RhinoVAULT, a plag-in that helps to create and control such funicular forms. With perfectly dry connections, this work is a milestone for stone engineering. Besides, while spans of the vault reach 16 m, it’s thickness shrinks up to only 5 cm. Wow! Back to the future and far beyond.

Wandering beneath this cutting-edge dome with a primordial taste inscribed in the ancient walls of Arsenale is a great aesthetic experience itself. While lovers of architecture will enjoy the technological detail, the rest will definitely go crazy with its beauty. But, hurry up! The 6-month Venice Biennale will end on November 27. Only one month to go.  

Maria Novozhilova
twitter: @NovozhilovaM