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CELLULAR Retable Sculpture

The cellular retable sculpture is a novel concept of the collaboration of Oliver Tessin and the artist duo Empfangshalle for the gothic parish church St. Laurentius in Altmühldorf, which combines the research-oriented approach and an artistic idea behind it.

The sculpture was created as an essential part of the artistic renovation of the parish church and became through its unique structure and gold reflective aesthetic, the new focal point of the church interior. The artistic idea is based on the insight that churches always used the latest technologies. The research-oriented approach, respectively, the cellular structural concept was then the answer to how to use those new technologies like 3D-Printing.

The approach underlying the structural concept is based, through the informed use of 3D-Printing as well as Computational Design, on the form-finding processes of nature and thus establishes a special relationship with the gothic parish church. As the architects of the Gothic already adapted design principles of nature to advance form-finding methods. Back then, limited by solely pressure-based building element systems, the results were geometrically simple forms, like the existing pointed arch and the ripped vault of the parish church. However, today, in place of hammer and chisel, computational design and additive manufacturing allow through high resolution decidedly more complexity.

The aesthetic of gothic architecture consists basically of the hierarchical combination of the mentioned geometrically simple elements and ornaments. The earlier was derived from the catenary model, an analogue form-finding tool. In opposition to that, cellular structures e.x. in bone tissue are highly complex geometries without hierarchical separation. Through Computational Design, the underlying design principle of cellular structures do not need to be geometrically simplified because the digital form-finding method has virtually no limitations. Through the use of 3D-Printing, it is then possible to manufacture the filigree structure that intertwines constructive and ornamental properties, thus forming an inseparable unity of functional and visual aesthetics.

Close up

Close up

Structural sculpture in altar room

Structural sculpture in altar room

Ultimately the retable was manufactured by FIT AG, under the supervision of Bruno Knychalla, an expert in additive manufacturing, using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). Due to the size of the machines, the sculpture was divided into 60 segments and coated with aluminium bronze using a unique wire-arc spray process that gives the structure stability. FEM Analysis shows that, through its social-democratic structural behaviour, even with the removal of 30% of the rod elements, the retable would remain structurally resilient. Finally, the sculpture is finished with a metallic lacquer to achieve its gold reflective shine.

Despite their seemingly contrasting appearances and their use of different technologies, the sculpture and the gothic parish church share the same philosophical foundation. This special bond creates a unique quality that reflects the future-oriented spirit of the church.

For more information please see the press release.

Status: Completed
Type: Research-oriented sculpture
Topic: Low Material Consumption Structure
Collaboration: Empfangshalle
Structural Concept, Design and Planning: Studio Tessin
Artistic Concept: Empfangshalle
Client: Pfarrei St. Laurentius mit Erzbischöfliches Ordinariat
Manufacturer: FIT Additive Manufactoring Group
Pictures: © Andreas Heddergott
Location: Altmühldorf, Bavaria, Germany
Total size: 8 m x 2,52 m x 54 cm (Height x Width x Depth)
Segment size: 68 x 55 x 38 cm (Length x Height x Depth)
Production/Material: 3D Printing SLS (PA 12) coated with Wire Arc Spraying (Aluminium bronze) and matt reflective surface finish with Metal Spray Coating (Gold colour)

 
Form-finding Step 1: Topology Optimization

Form-finding Step 1: Topology Optimization

Form-finding Step 2: Density Map

Form-finding Step 2: Density Map

Form-finding Step 3: Cellular Network

Form-finding Step 3: Cellular Network

 
Floor plan

Floor plan

Section

Section