picture of coral house

Polyp Module

Biomimicry as a Design Driver



Polyp Modules is an exploration into biomimicry, which involves the examination of a biological principal, and abstracting it into an architectonic concept. In theory, this design logic allows architecture to approach the efficiencies found in nature. In this case, stoney corals were studied for their ability to generate complex form through the simple interactions of individuals. This project was an interdisciplinary collaboration between ITECH students from the University of Stuttgart and Biology students from the University of Tubingen.

coral microscope image


Modular Construction System

The global Coral structure is composed of Coralite individuals that are aggregated. The individual Coralites stack on top of each other, and connect to their neighbors. By varying a couple of simple component parts, the corals are able to achieve a large variety of global morphologies. The two principal components are the outer wall (Epitheca) and the reinforcement ribs (Septa). These two basic structural components of the Coralite are abstracted into achitectural components to make stacking building modules. The architectural logic is similar to the biological role model, and results in similar global geometries.

modular construction system


Module Schematic

The structure grows through the logic of modules stacking on top of one another. In this architectural abstraction, the central ribs protrude beyond the walls to form a male plug. The plug can then interface with the Guide Rails of the next module. The structure grows in size through the modules increasing in diameter as the height increases. This logic is different in biological corals, which increase in size through a branching logic. However, this branching logic did not make sense for the creation of a stiff shell structure. This encouraged the simpler logic of a simple stacking of elements.

The manufacturing process is flexible and easily adapted to different designs. We wanted to design a construction technique to be used on a myriad of possible forms. Every element is constructed from the same type of flat plywood sheets. This limits the amount of machines needed for fabrication, and it also allows the fabricator to order a larger quantity of the same material. Also, the structure can optimize its stiffness by changing the amount of central ribs. This variable allows us to use the same material to generate different structural capacities.

Exploded Module


Branching Logic

As discussed previously, the biological coral grows through a branching logic. This was not implemented in this projected because of the added complexity in construction. Instead, the growth was achieved through changing individual module metrics, rather than adding more modules floor to floor. However, the branching logic does become necessary once the concentric rings reach a certain diameter. It would make more sense to have a greater amount of individual corallites at a certain scale.

The branching logic of the coral was computationally modeled to investigate geometric and structural outcomes. A grasshopper script was written to automatically generate a branching growth logic for any user inputed boundary conditions. The tree grows in a way that distributes the load evenly across as many corallites as possible, and doesn't require one node to split too many times.

cross section optimization



The final renderings demonstrate how the coral module could be applied to construct a pavilion. In this iteration, the coral modules grow out of one foundation, branching out in an umbrella fashion. It is envisioned as a simple shade structure that could define space in a city park setting.