The full PDF-version of my PhD dissertation entitled Vacuumatics: 3D Formwork Systems can now be downloaded here:

(if left-click doesn’t work, use right-click + save target)



One of the most important architectural trends of the last two decades is commonly referred to as ‘digital architecture’. This trend comprises digitally-generated geometrically complex, often irregular, yet fluent double-curved shapes (or rather ‘free forms’) in architecture. Although advanced digital manufacturing systems are emerging in architecture, the construction processes in general require some sort of boost to ‘keep up’ with the already heavily advanced (digital) design and analysis processes. Curable materials (such as concrete) are considered particularly useful for the realisation of the desired ‘free forms’. The formability and the adaptability of the formwork system of choice, however, are typically considered the limiting factors. Previous research by the author has indicated the potential of so-called vacuumatic structures (or simply ‘vacuumatics’) to be used as semi-rigid formwork systems. Little is known, however, about the specific structural properties and to a lesser extent the morphological formability of these types of structures. Vacuumatic structures typically consist of an (unbound) aggregate core, which is enclosed by a flexible membrane envelope and structurally stabilised by means of an internal underpressure.

The research presented in this thesis aims at defining the influence of the individual characteristics of the aggregate core and the membrane envelope on the overall flexural behaviour of vacuumatic structures. Furthermore, the basic structural mechanics is explored with which the flexural behaviour of vacuumatic structures can be explained. Apart from that, this research aims at defining which shaping techniques are considered most effective for using vacuumatic structures as semi-rigid formwork systems for producing ‘free forms’ and customised surface textures in concrete for architectural applications.

Frank Huijben
Defence date: August 18th, 2014

Apart from the full PhD dissertation, the extended version of Appendix A (which is only partly added to the printed dissertation) can be downloaded here as well. This appendix presents the results of the four-point bending tests: