What were gigantic old structures like Stonehenge, or the towering heads of Moai on Easter Island, set in a time when cranes and trucks were still hundreds of years away? Researchers at MIT gave more credit to theories that ancient engineers were masters in balance and leverage with a new experiment that produced giant concrete structures weighing about 25 tonnes that can still be handled manually.
Matter Design (which was co-founded by Brandon Clifford, who is also an assistant professor at MIT) worked with CEMEX, a company specializing in building materials, to design a series of oversized concrete monoliths that could be assembled as building blocks. building giants. in a larger functional structure.
But despite weighing many tons per piece and being durable enough to survive hundreds of years, concrete blocks feature unique make-up and shapes that make them relatively easy to move, even by just one person.
There are a few different design approaches at work here. The blocks, which are also known as massive masonry units – or MMUs for short – are made of concrete with varying densities to allow precise control over where the object's center of gravity ends, adding stability and balance. And although each giant block looks like a random bubble, they are designed with strategically positioned bevels, rounded edges, pivot points, lugs, and interlocking capabilities.
The resulting structures are still too heavy for a human to lift, but can be balanced, rotated, tilted, walked and even rolled from place to place, with remarkable ease and precision.
So, yes, the idea that the 82-ton Moai statues were rocked and crossed an island to their final resting places is not implausible. But this experiment does more than just prove a hypothesis. Given the advances in 3D printing, especially at larger scales, this approach could be used to design and build permanent and durable structures in places where a truck or an imposing crane would be impossible or too prohibitive to use.
In places where flooding is a threat or water levels are already rising, concrete walls can be easily assembled by local residents. Heavy and impenetrable barricades can be quickly maneuvered to a place where threats are imminent and there is no time to build a more elaborate structure. One day you can even set up your new home as a giant set of Lego concrete. Just throw a rug or two and those concrete walls will not look so cold.
[Matter Design via designboom]