Video: NXT BLD 2019 – Mariana Popescu, Block Research Group

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Addressing the increasingly urgent requirement of decreasing embodied energy and waste in construction


My research brings together advances in digital fabrication, computation, and structural design. It looks at reducing material demand both in terms of structural volume and during the building process, specifically for concrete. Designing structures that intelligently include structural performance and architectural geometry leads to beautiful, economical and structurally optimised systems that use very little material. However, their expressive, intricate and bespoke geometries can be challenging to build with traditional formwork methods that rely on single-use cut timber or milled foam. To harness the full potential of non-standard and non-repetitive efficient concrete structures, the formwork systems used for construction need to be rethought. Using 3D weft-knitted technical textiles as stay-in-place moulds is a novel type of flexible and cost-effective solution for casting concrete structures. Through tensioning the custom-tailored textile is formed into the desired shape and coated with a special cement-paste to obtain the mould, which becomes a basis for efficient, lightweight structures. With an inhouse developed computational pipeline consisting of algorithms and design tools to translate any given 3D geometry into a knitting pattern in an automated way, commonly available CNC knitting machines produce intricately knitted textiles. These textiles are light, compact and can be effortlessly transported to the construction site. The system was deployed at an architectural scale with KnitCandela, a four-meter-tall curved concrete shell with a knitted textile formwork supported by a steel cable-net built at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) in Mexico City in 2018.

View the other NXT BLD 2019 presentations

Nassim Saoud, Trimble Consulting
Applications of Mixed Reality in design and construction.

Moritz Luck, Enscape
From real-time to realism.

Sandeep Gupte, NVIDIA
Re-imagine cities of the future with next gen visualisation.

Florian Frank, Herzog & De Meuron
User Defined Software.

Richard Harpham, Katerra
Silicon and Sawdust – Deconstructing Construction.


Tal Friedman, Foldstruct
Between the folds – Towards a material revolution.

Melike Altınışık, Melike Altınışık Architects
Dialogue between architecture and robotic construction.

Alexander Le Bell, Tridify
The impact of automated web VR workflows and streamlined collaboration.

Exploring forms through Computational Design to Digital Fabrication.

Simeon Balabanov, Chaos Group
Getting it real: AEC workflows real-time, real fast and ray traced.

Michael Perry, Boston Dynamics
What if human-like mobility could be added to automation on construction sites?

Mariana Popescu, Block Research Group
Bringing together advances in digital fabrication, computation, and structural design.

Martyn Day, AEC Magazine & NXT BLD
Introducing NXT BLD and AEC Magazine.

Xavier De Kestelier, HASSELL
Extra-Terrestrial Architecture.

Cobus Bothma, Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF)
Accelerating design decisions with rapid visualisation.

Hilmar Gunnarsson & Johan Hanegraaf, Arkio
Bringing architectural design into VR.

Federico Rossi, DARLAB (Digital Architecture & Robotic Lab)
Advanced Robots for Advanced Architecture.

Ken Pimentel , Epic Games
How Fortnite is changing AEC.

Carlos Cristerna , Neoscape
Harnessing the power of real-time ray tracing.

Mike Leach , Lenovo
Navigating challenges surrounding AR and VR hardware.

Mikolaj Bazaczek , VR+ARCH: workflows in past, present and future
VR+ARCH: workflows in past, present and future.



NXT BLD is organised by AEC Magazine and brings next generation architecture, engineering and construction technologies to life in an exclusive conference and exhibition. These emerging technologies facilitate new ways of designing, enhancing the use of 3D models, applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) and offering new possibilities in digital fabrication and construction.

NXT BLD 2020 will take place at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, London on 9 June, in association with Lenovo.

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