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Craft, Computations, and Constructions
Research and Teaching by Jonathan Dessi-Olive.

︎MycoMatters Lab

Beyond the Slab

This research on contemporary tile vaulting was exhibited through two prototypes built for the Architecture Biennale of Venice in 2016 as part of the Beyond Bending installation, commissioned by the curator, Alejandro Aravena. The two prototypes build on the traditional Guastavino system to demonstrate relevant applications for vaulted masonry floor systems that can use a range of materials. Tile vaulting is a method of construction that can offer significant advantages over other vaulting techniques due to its speed of construction and material efficiency. The first prototype “La Volta en Foglio”, uses thin ceramic bricks, while the second, “La Volta en Terra Cruda”, uses an earth-based (adobe) brick for its construction. Together, the two prototypes offer a depiction of the range of form and materials that can be used to make unreinforced masonry load-bearing supporting elements for intermediate floors or roofs.

They are demonstrations of how compressive geometry can be used to build floor systems with minimal steel and relatively weak material. Compared to conventional concrete slabs, these structures can be far more visually exciting, lower cost, lower weight and have a lower environmental impact. The doubly curved shell was made of traditional ceramic tiles. The barrel vault was made of stabilized, unfired earth bricks, which has up to 70% less material and 90% less embodied CO2 than conventional steel and concrete systems. Because most countries have some form of masonry tradition in their local practices, techniques used in the prototypes could be adopted more broadly.

Exhibition at the 2016 Venice Biennale

May to November 2016

Project Collaborators:
Salvador Gomis Aviño, Salvador Tomás Marquez, Benjamin Ibarra-Sevilla, Fernando Vegas, Camilla Mileto, and John Ochsendorf.

Exhibition Partners:

Block Research Group, ODB Engineering, The Escobedo Group

Prior to the exhibition in Venice, the two vaults were prototyped in Valencia, Spain at the Universitat Polytecnica de Valencia (UPV).

Making of the "Beyond Bending" ceramic tile and earthen vaults from Block Research Group on Vimeo.

Other Projects:
all work by Jonathan Dessi-Olive unless otherwise noted.  © 2022 all rights reserved.