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High-Tech Temporary Building Unveiled in Amsterdam

By Catherine A. Cardno, Ph.D.

The building, which includes 3-D-printed elements, will be used by the Presidency of the Council of the European Union while it meets in the Netherlands.

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A temporary convention center has been installed for use by the Presidency of the Council of the European Union during its time in the Netherlands. The striking main entrance features 3-D-printed elements and a facade that appears to be pulled upward at strategic locations. Ossip van Duivenbode

February 9, 2016—Temporary buildings and pavilions offer many benefits. They are typically lightweight and relatively easy to erect. They offer space when and where it is needed. But they can also allow for cutting-edge technology and designs to be tested. Such is the case with a temporary convention center that has been installed for use by the Presidency of the Council of the European Union during its time in the Netherlands: Erected in the formerly enclosed Marineterrein Amsterdam, the facade of the complex's entrance contains elements that are created from fully reusable, 3-D-printed bioplastic sections.

The 8,000 m 2 complex is located behind the walls of the Marineterrein, an area that is now being transformed into a public city district. The center was built on behalf of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign affairs and includes six temporary, high-tech buildings connected by covered walkways. These buildings include conference rooms, lounges, a theater, interpreting booths, and meeting rooms, according to information on the webpage of Neptunus, a Kessel, the Netherlands-based temporary structure company that erected the complex and coordinated its interiors. Members and ministers of the European Commission and diplomats will meet in the facility for the first six months of 2016 while the Netherlands hosts the Presidency of the European Union, the organization that is responsible for the functioning of the upper house of the EU legislature.

The main entrance to the complex is striking: portions of the white facade appear to be pulled upward, sail-like, by invisible strings, creating alcoves with fluted overhangs. These alcoves hold a series of 3-D-printed benches and walls, created to open the building visually and physically to the public. The sail-like overhangs are offered as connections to the area's shipbuilding history, according to the Amsterdam-based DUS architects. DUS architects designed the 3-D-printed elements in conjunction with construction services company Heijmans, which is based in Rosmalen, the Netherlands.

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The facade contains elements that are created from fully reusable, 3-D-printed bioplastic sections. A pulsing light highlights the alcoves situated beneath the portions of the facade that have been lifted. Ossip van Duivenbode

During the six months that the presidency of the council will be held by the Netherlands, meetings will occur daily, according to material on Heijman's website. In total, the firm notes that 135 meetings will occur with an estimate of 17,500 participants overall. The presidency of the council's home rotates among EU member states every six months, with sets of three countries—referred to as "trios"—working together in larger 18-month periods of time to guide the council's goals and common agenda during that time frame, according to the council's website. The current trio responsible for the council is the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Malta.

The Netherland's temporary home for the presidency of the council is an aluminum structure, while the facade is similar to an architectural folding screen, according to Daan Rietbergen, a computer-aided design engineer with the Utrecht based temporary structures firm, Tentech. The company was responsible for the engineering of the temporary structure and its facade, and Rietbergen wrote in response to written questions posed by Civil Engineering online.

The screen consists of eight separate steel frames, explained Rietbergen. A PVC-coated polyester tensile fabric is fitted to these frames to form the white cladding elements. "The structure of the screen rests on base plates on the soil, fixed with anchoring rods, similar to circus tents," he noted. The facade frame is bolted to the building frame and all gaps between the two frames enclosed to lessen the wind loads on the interior frame.

The 3-D-printed benches and wall elements were also bolted to the facade frame.

The sail elements have been carefully detailed to appear clean and sharp with no connections or tensioning devices in sight, according to Rietbergen. "Along the alcoves the fabric is folded around the edge and clamped to the steel frame," he explained. "Along the side and top edges the fabric folds around the steel frame and is tensioned to the back of the frame using springs."

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The alcoves hold a series of benches and walls—also created by 3-D printing—that open the building visually and physically to the public. Ossip van Duivenbode

Underneath these sails, the alcoves are a striking "EU blue," as the architects refer to the color. Within the alcove, the 3-D-printed pattern elements increase in size from small to large, and visually appear to transition from round to square. This visual complexity was chosen to depict the variety and community of the EU countries, according to the architects. A pulsing light highlights the alcoves at night.

The benches were printed locally using a 3-D printer that uses fused deposition modeling technology and is capable of creating elements that measure up to 2 m by 2 m by 3.5 m. (This printer is also being used to create a research center called the 3D Print Canal Housewithin the city, on which DUS architects and Heijmans are also collaborating.) Because the bioplastic used in this printer is melted and built up layer by layer with a computer-controlled printer head, the final layers are clearly visible in the end project, according to Heijmans. The seating surfaces of the benches are filled with a layer of lightweight concrete for durability.

The 3-D printed elements use a linseed oil-based bioplastic. This material is fully recyclable, and can be removed, shredded, and reused for future 3-D printing projects.

"The design was developed in collaboration with Actual, our new company that creates customizing tools for digital building products," said Martijn van Wijk, a project architect at DUS architects, who wrote in response to written questions posed by Civil Engineering online. "With help of Actual's tool we could easily make variations based on one main design and create XL 3-D print files."

"It was a very quick process, from idea to completion in less than five months," said Hedwig Heinsman, the co-founder of DUS architects, who also wrote in response to written questions posed by Civil Engineering online. Because of this, four processes had to occur simultaneously: research, development, design, and production. "Model making was a big part of the design—the entire building was built as a scale model 1:20, and all the 3-D-printed elements were printed at different scales several times to come to the right design," Heinsman said. In addition to the models, 1:1 prototypes were also necessary for testing purposes.

Because the benches were designed parametrically, as soon as the exact facade measurements were determined the benches could be printed instantly to precise measurements, according to Rietbergen.

Energy efficiency was of great importance for the complex and rooftop solar panels were installed to provide a portion of the required daily energy to operate the facility. The complex as a whole is the most advanced temporary complex in the Netherlands, according to Dorrie Eilers, Neptunus' director, who was quoted in material on the company's website.

In addition to the companies mentioned above, a number of others were involved in the design and creation of the building. Dusseldorf, Germany-based Henkel, a global consumer products and adhesive technologies company, assisted in developing the materials, and Philips Lighting, which is based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, created the lighting system.

Meetings will take place in the complex until June 30, 2016.



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