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Creators have found their inspiration in the world around them for a long time. Sometimes in a person, sometimes in a place, and sometimes even in an insect. The German architect Prof. Achim Menges and the multidisciplinary team of researchers and students he works with at the University of Stuttgart, for example, took their cue from nature’s most perfect architect – the spider. They combined the natural phenomenon of its web with the help of modern technology to construct several pavilion structures like the ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2014-15, made of carbon fibre and built like an underwater nest construction of the water spider.

© ICD/ITKE University Stuttgart

© ICD/ITKE University Stuttgart

How to create a self-sustaining construction

Did you ever wonder how spiders create their mysterious webs? Why they are so persistently resistant to any kind of weather - no matter if there is wind or rain? Prof. Achim Menges’ team from the University of Stuttgart had all these questions and more, and through curiosity they explored the habit of the water spider. The aim was to draw a working, sustainable conclusion for modern architecture, always driven by the question: how can you build a resilient fibre structure without the usual scaffolding?

Exploring the architecture of this small swimming spider, the professor and his team observed and followed its behavioural patterns: to build a habitat under water, the spider creates a bubble in its web and stabilizes it afterwards with its own silky yet strong fibers. This revolutionary way of construction is not only visually intriguing and beautiful, but also inspired the researchers to propose a self-sustaining form in their own work.

© ICD/ITKE University Stuttgart

From nature to technology

To transfer this result into ‘human’ architecture, the interdisciplinary team left nature’s sphere and re-routed back to modern technology. “We transferred the behavior of the spider onto a robot, which worked with a pneumatic structure, stabilizing it from inside with a fiber construction“ Prof. Achim Menges says. “First the inflated shell is holding the fibers. But then the fibers are holding the shell.“ The result was a unique research pavilion, which was placed at the university in Stuttgart in 2015.

But how did they come up with the idea of getting inspired by a spider in the first place? “In architecture, shape, structure, material and external environment are often considered separately“, the professor says. “But in nature they are inherently and inseparably linked. We use biology as a vehicle to think outside the box.“

© ICD/ITKE University Stuttgart

A symbol of creation

The enigmatic spider has not only inspired Prof. Menges and his team, but is in fact a metaphor for the creative act of writing and has been used by writers and poets all throughout history. Thus the Heritage Spider collection becomes an homage to the masterpiece of creation that is the spider, and in turn convinces us to express our own creativity through pen and paper.

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