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Semiramis, Tech Cluster Zug, 2020-2022
Semiramis is an architectural installation designed with artificial intelligence that has been constructed in 2022 at the entrance of a new Tech Cluster Zug, Switzerland. As a herald for the increasingly interwoven collaboration between machines and humans, it aims to go beyond usual urban programs and it rises as a vertical urban habitat reserved for plants and small local animals. By dwelling between the artificial and the natural, Semiramis has been established through a manifold of synergies and research projects in the fields of interactive computational design, machine learning, and digital fabrication. On a formal level, the structure is 22.5 meters in height without vegetation and is composed of five amorphous wooden pods sustained by 8 thin steel pillars.

Design and fabrication
Thanks to a bespoke machine learning design method created by our chair in collaboration with the Swiss Data Science Center, the team could interactively extrapolate the most effective design variations for the generation of the overall spatial composition of Semiramis. The performance criteria were based on parameters such as sunshade, rain occlusion, and plantable surface.
Parallelly, thanks to the cooperation with the Computational Robotics Lab, we developed a custom tool that has allowed us to optimize the single pods’ shape by interactively controlling their complex geometry while considering relevant material and fabrication parameters. For example, it maintains the individual panels flat and respects the possible range of their individual sizes while improving structural load capacity.

Eventually, the cross-laminated timber plates are robotically assembled with a novel assembly procedure that has been created by Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich, together with TS3, and the Chair for Timber Structures at ETH Zurich. This process allows butt joint bonding of wood, thus making the production of large areas of complex folded wood structures possible.

The robotic assembly of Semiramis will also represent a milestone in the history of Gramazio Kohler Research. In fact, for the first time ever at the Robotic Fabrication Lab at ETH Zurich, four robots will work simultaneously in an unprecedented additive manufacturing process. Our team closely collaborated with Intrinsic, building integrations between their robot planning technology and COMPAS FAB, our open-source robotic fabrication package.

Questions on nature
The vertical, landscaping concept within the pods has been ideated together with and implemented by Müller Illien Landscape Architects Gmbh. Nature will have the chance to grow undisturbed: people cannot access the pagoda-like pods. Our only chance to admire the new living and morphing ecosystem is as hosts and passers-by. For the moment, just from underneath, and in the future, also from the surrounding buildings that will rise around it.

Semiramis is a precursor in the new urban area of the Tech Cluster Zug, as the adjacent buildings will be erected during subsequent years and decades. Apart from being an installation that wishes to question and reflect on our complex relationship with nature, Semiramis will provide a retreat and gathering place underneath its surfaces for the workers and inhabitants of this area of Zug. Thanks to its green densification, which is regulated through a centralized irrigation system, the light will be filtered and will create various degrees of shades on the ground while offering a comfortable microclimate in the hottest months of the year.

Further information
Press Release, 23.11.2021, ETH Zurich

Background information on the core innovations

Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich

In cooperation with: Müller Illien Landschaftsarchitekten, Timbatec Timber Construction Engineers Switzerland
Client: Urban Assets Zug AG
Collaborators: Sarah Schneider (project lead), Matteo Pacher (fabrication lead), Aleksandra Apolinarska, Pascal Bach, Gonzalo Casas, Philippe Fleischmann, Matthias Helmreich, Michael Lyrenmann, Beverly Lytle, Romana Rust, Ziqi Wang.
Selected experts: Stelian Coros, Krispin Wandel, Bernhard Thomaszewsky, Roi Poranne (Computational Robotics Lab, ETH Zurich), Luis Salamanca, Fernando Perez-Cruz (Swiss Data Science Center), Chair for Timber Structures, ETH Zurich.
Selected contractors: Erne AG Holzbau
Industry partner: TS3 AG; Intrinsic

Copyright 2024, Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Gramazio Kohler Research
Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication
ETH Zürich HIB E 43
Stefano-Franscini Platz 1 / CH-8093 Zurich

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