“Elytra Filament”, the glass and carbon fiber pavillion

The Victoria & Albert Museum of London, in collaboration with the University of Stuttgart, presents inside the John Madejski Garden a bio-mimetic pavillion inspired by beetles’ forewings.


It’s an unusual structure realized with a new process of robotized production. It’s composed by a new fibre made of glass and carbon fiber, very strong but at the same time light, that mimics the elytra, the hardened forewing that beetles have. The carbon fiber it’s part of the fiber-reinforced compounds group that, together with fibrocement and glass fiber, are the most revolutionary materials in the contruction field.


To create this structure, the new fiber has been sewn into exagonal cells using innovative equipments. These “robots” rolled up the fiberglass and carbon fibers around a steel structure. The pavillion will grow and change it’s configuration over time according to anonymous data based on the visitors’ behaviour and movements. These informations will be recorded real-time through sensors directly installed inside the fibers. Visitors will have the possibility to see the evolution of the structure through the real-time addition of new components to the pavillion made by “robots”.


One of the techniques used for this project is in fact a “robotic” weaving capable of leaving the fibers exposed instead of built-in in the host material. This process could make possible to build large carbon fiber structures strong enough to work as roof covering for stadiums. Therefore the software that controls the “robotic” construction process still needs to be fully developed.


This incredible work, realized by architects Achim Menges and Moritz Dörstelmann and by engineers  Jan Knippers e Thomas Auer, aims to use bio-fiber systems for architectural projects. The 200 sq m structure is inspired the principles of light construction existing in nature, like the fiber structures of bettles’ forewings. The pavillion is made of 40 exagonal components of 45 kg each, realized during three hours of work.


According to architect and researcher Achim Menges, carbon fiber it’s the most underrated resource in the architectural field. Menges thinks that projects of this kind, capable of combining digital technology and physical production, have the potential to initiate a true revolution in the construction field. He thinks that more than a step-by-step evolution this could represents a dramatic change, almost a fourth industrial revolution.