Ice Textures

Digitally Manufactured Ice Textures on
Concrete Elements

Enrico Pontello
CITA, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation, Denmark

This research by Enrico Pontello, explores the use of ice formwork textures on complex concrete architectural elements. The use of ice formwork, rather than conventional concrete formwork, allows the production of architectural elements with complex geometries in a highly controlled offsite production process with almost complete reuse of the mold material.

Using digitally-driven fabrication tools such as a robotic milling arm the goal is to achieve 3D shapes made from one or more ice molds. One of the main features of this research is sustainability, showcased through the usage of ice as a mold material which is 100% reusable. Furthermore, ice formwork allows the creation of bespoke shapes for every single element in an efficient and artistic way.

This opens new avenues for architectural design and construction. This project uses a design-based research methodology where each physical iteration is carefully evaluated against the digital model, embracing morphological material programming. Ice formwork could be an efficient solution to produce unique structurally optimized concrete elements.

Since the milling methodology is still a time-consuming process, one of the questions that has been addressed in this paper is the best strategy and technology that could be implemented to explore the aesthetics of an ice formwork used in production. For this a novel approach has been developed based on the concept of a simulation method of hybrid fabrication, where minimal and elementary milling interventions in a volume of a regular ice block can develop into a more complex geometry through the process of melting .

The intrinsic sturdiness property of ice plays an important role in the final manufacturing process as it can withstand the heat of the concrete while it starts to harden and embrace the shape of the carved formwork. It should be mentioned that the intention to link computer-generated geometry and the dynamic behavior of ice material, is driven  both  by the  necessity  to  minimize the effort during fabrication  and provide  a  natural aesthetic materialization strategy that does not solely rely on the transitory machining equipment, but strives to involve new physical processes in the culture of fabrication.

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