Back in January, Architect Magazine predicted that 2016 would be the year composites “go big” in architecture. If the innovation on display at ACMA’s Composites Pavilion at the American Institute of Architects 2016 Convention (May 19-21 in Philadelphia) was any indication, it’s clear that composites are no longer just the materials of the future in architecture – they are the present.

ACMA’s third annual Composites Pavilion had more to offer than it ever has before. For the first time ever, ACMA hosted its student Composites in Architecture Design Challenge. Winning entries from UCLA, Temple University and Georgia Tech displayed a wide range of novel manufacturing methods.

UCLA Undulating Gills Architecture Design Challenge AIA 2016

UCLA was honored at the student awards ceremony for winning first place in the first-ever ACMA Composites in Architecture Design Challenge.

UCLA’s first place “Undulating Gills” project was created by architecture students Anna Kudashkina, Yifan Wu, Yuekan Yu, Shahr Razi, Simi Shenoy, and Marcelo Marcos. They worked on the project under the direction of SUPRASTUDIO lecturer Julia Koerner within a technology seminar known as Animated Fibers. With material support from Composites One and Polynt, the team’s project incorporated composite fabrication of “mega-panels” while integrating robotic technology to fabricate panels without a mold. The result was a twisting structure that creates a “parametric relationship between a series of panels to allow for lighting control on a facade.”

Temple University Daniel Cruz AIA

Daniel Cruz from Temple University stands next to his team’s B3OCC Pavilion, which won second place in the Composites in Architecture Design Challenge.

Temple University’s second place project, created by students Daniel Cruz, Sean Moss, and Kerry Hohenstein under the direction of associate professor Brian Szymanik, was an alternative design for Philadelphia’s storied Schuylkill River Grandstands in Fairmount Park. The students’ re-design, known as the “B3OCC Pavilion” (B3 Pavilion Optimized Composites Colonnade), accommodates over 700 spectators for crew races along the river. The pavilion is a semi-transparent, web-like structure made with fiberglass composites. The team used a version of the pultrusion technique, where multiple spools of roving were pulled through a resin bath, saturated with the mixture and pressed together, finally heated to quicken the catalyzing process.

Georgia Tech’s third place project, “Balloon Panel,” created by students Chantale Martin and Jose Garza de la Cruz under the direction of Professor Daniel Baerlecken, aimed to eliminate the need for a mold while achieving two finished surfaces. By combining the outward-pushing forces of balloons with the inward-pulling forces of a vacuum, they achieved a beautifully textured form while evenly distributing resin to create a highly finished surface for their panel. The vacuum allows the volume of the “balloons” to disperse and pack more efficiently. The resulting panel is lightweight, three-dimensional, and easily scalable for a multitude of applications.