Athens, Greece is a tourist draw for a number of reasons – one of the biggest, and most obvious, being its historical sites. But while the Parthenon may be enough of a reason alone for many people to visit the beautiful Mediterranean city, there are plenty of modern attractions that shouldn’t be ignored – such as the newly completed Stavros Niachros Foundation Cultural Center. The center, which took about a decade from conception to completion, is now home to the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera as well as a lush park, but beyond its cultural value, it’s also evidence that after all these years, Greece hasn’t lost its architectural flair.
In addition to being visually stunning, the SNFCC, which will officially open later this year, was designed to be as environmentally sustainable as possible. In fact, the building has been awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum environmental certification – the first public building in Greece to meet the standard.
One of the most significant features of the SNFCC’s sustainable construction is its roof, the Energy Canopy, a wafer-thin platform supported by slender columns and towering over the complex. Described by the Stavros Niacrhos Foundation as “a marvel of construction and engineering,” the thin concrete structure is deceptively strong, with a shock absorbing system that allows it to withstand earthquakes, strong winds and other potential natural disasters. It’s also covered in 5,560 photovoltaic panels, which are capable of generating 2,280 kwh of electricity each year – allowing the entire center to be almost completely energy independent.
The Energy Canopy was designed by London engineering and design firm Expedition, who acted as structural engineers on the SNFCC project, and were further honored when London’s V&A Museum asked them to provide a scale model of the roof for display. The designers agreed that 3D printing would be the best method for producing the model, and turned to product development company ARRK for help.
ARRK, a multinational corporation that has been growing since 1948, has been using 3D printing for several years, and upon reviewing sketches provided by Expedition, they agreed that Selective Laser Sintering would be the best method for reproducing the detailed structure. The 1m-squared model had to be built in sections – much like the original roof. The piecemeal design had the added benefit of allowing ARRK to check and validate each part for accuracy before continuing, saving them the time and headaches that would have been involved had an error required the entire model to be reprinted.
The model was printed using glass filled nylon powder, with layers as thin as 0.5mm allowing ARRK to reproduce the thin, complex interior wall sections of the roof, which is much more intricate than it looks from a distance. Once the parts were all printed, a team of joiners and finishers took over to assemble the model into one flawless piece, which they presented to Expedition, who proclaimed themselves fully satisfied with the quality of the model and the quick turnaround time.
The model of the Energy Canopy will be on display at the V&A Museum until late autumn, so if you can’t make it all the way to Athens to check out this architectural marvel, perhaps you can still examine the miniaturized version in London, and get a close look at an incredible design. Discuss further in the Expedition Turns to AARK for 3D Printing forum over at 3DPB.com.