Research project funding approved (FWF PEEK program), 2023-2027 at the Department of experimental Architecture, Building Design and Construction, Studio Schmidbaur.

Research project led by Karolin Schmidbaur, Universität Innsbruck, Department of experimental Architecture, Building Design and Construction, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) PEEK program (AR 808-GBL) , 2023-2027.

Assuming sustainability as a prerequisite for a future building culture, the research project integrates separate approaches emerging in architectural discourse and related fields into a methodology for understanding the architectural potential of vulcanized fiber and developing a prototypical building system.

Vulcanized fiber is a little known, cellulose-based material, produced in sheets. Besides a good ecological balance, this material is durable, strong, and lightweight, offering significant potential for architectural application. Of special interest is the material’s natural deformation as a result of the drying process. It not only produces a distinct, natural form aesthetics, but also a potentially improved structural performance as well as an ambiguous functionality and spatial quality. In this context it is essential to examine the levels of control between form definition and a self-forming process. The project builds on developments in paper-based construction and aims at investigating the aesthetic, functional, spatial, and constructive potential of plant-based vulcanized fiber, used as building components in architecture. Understanding the distinct characteristics of parts and the emerging implication for potential correlations is the basis for a bottom-up method of designing spatial structures. Hereby, natural-physical phenomena are combined with a hybrid working method of digital and analog techniques – to formulate a contemporary articulation of sustainable architecture.

By following the dynamic properties of the distinct material to conceptualize architectural environments, this research aims at activating a new resource in architecture and expanding the aesthetic, functional and spatial norms of a sustainable building culture beyond utilitarianism.

Austrian Science Fund (FWF) PEEK program (AR 808-GBL)

Project Team:
Karolin Schmidbaur
Lukas Allner
Gonzalo Vaíllo
(team to be expanded)

Industrial Partner:
Ernst Krüger GmbH & Co KG, Geldern, Germany (Vulcanized Fiber)

Expert Support:
oProf. Dr. Thomas Bechtold, Prof. Dr. Tung Pham, Universität Innsbruck, Research Institute of Textile Chemistry und Textile Physics (Material Science, Ecology)
Prof. Dr. Matthias Gondan-Rochon, Universität Innsbruck, Institute for Psychology, Department of Quantitative Methods (Psychology)
Bollinger + Grohmann ZT, Vienna, Mag. Arch. Moritz Heimrath (Structural Engineering)
Gwyllim Jahn, Fologram, Founder (AR Applications)
Dr. Susanne Witzgall, Academy of Fine Arts, Head of cx centre for interdisciplinary studies, Munich (Theory)