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Design and construction of a timber grid-shell boathouse canopy

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We will elaborate on the design and realization of a 130m2 timber grid-shell with the use of a fully parametric design algorithm which performs structural optimization and generates files for fabrication.

The timber canopy has been realized (figure 1) within the constraints of a small natural country estate, Het Lankheet, with maximal use of locally harvested timber by volunteers who used simple hand-tools. The 130m2 canopy functions as a roof covering the docking site of a rebuilt local traditional boat.

Figure 1: boathouse Lankheet


A parametric design was created using Grasshopper in Rhino 3D. By combining this architectural grasshopper algorithm with integrated Karamba3D and Galapagos, the structure was optimized and output for production of the structural elements was generated. The use of evolutionary algorithms enabled a self-stabilizing structural system, which also supports the architectural quality of the space.

The design incorporated minimal material usage of local timber, which was treated with ecological and traditional preservation (watering). The available wood was one of the input parameters for the design algorithm, ensuring on site flexibility of the design while maintaining design integrity. The algorithm was capable of generating the CAD files for the cnc-plasmacutter, the templates for angled cuts of the main beams and the cut & drill lists for all of the structural members. Using only this output, the timber construction was completed with low-tech tools and a small team of volunteers. The canopy has a high load capacity to function as a green roof in the future and it was optimized for hoisting the boat for maintenance.

We will show the design and build process and give insight on the unique possibilities and potential impact that arise from this integrated approach.
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Keywords: digital production; ecological manufacturing; parametric design; structural optimization; timber grid-shell

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Dynck B.Diazstraat 52-3, Amsterdam, Email: [email protected] 2: Arup 3: ABT Consulting Engineers

Publication date: August 20, 2015

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