August 22, 2019 Filament Tower Part of Exhibit Columbus Exhibition Opening Aug. 23

render of constructed filament tower
Render of Filament Tower

On Aug. 23, visitors to the opening of Exhibit Columbus will be the first to see the 30-foot-tall fiber-composite tower designed and built by faculty and students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Architecture and Design.

Exhibit Columbus, in Columbus, Indiana, is a biennial event, during which “architects, artists, and designers create outdoor installations and experiences that use Columbus’ built heritage as inspiration and context,” according to the event’s website.

In 2018, UT Asst. Professor of Architecture Marshall Prado was named an Exhibit Columbus University Design Research Fellow, inviting him to participate in the event’s symposium and create and install an exhibit along with only seven other fellows from around the country.

The tower, called UTK Filament Tower, will be officially opened on Aug. 23-24, after more than seven months of construction.

Fab Lab robot winding filament tower

Earlier this year, Prado and 22 students constructed Filament Tower using the new nine-axis robot in the college’s Fab Lab, aided by Craig Gillam, Fab Lab digital supervisor.  They constructed the 30-foot spire-shaped tower out of 27 composite components, each weighing an average of 20 pounds and measuring 3-8 feet in length.  The project was then transported to Columbus where the team spent a week in early August constructing the immense exhibit.

“UTK Filament Tower explores computational design and robotic fabrication of lightweight fiber composite structures for architectural applications,” said Prado. “We’re looking at ways to use performative materials as efficient and sustainable construction practices for the future.”

Overall, the tower covers an area of 85 square feet and is wound of nearly 50 miles of glass and carbon fiber. The strength of the wound-fiber construction is several times stronger than steel but much lighter.

The foundations of the tower, which were 3D printed in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, include interior seating for visitors, who can gaze up through the tower to see the sky and at night, enjoy integrated lighting throughout the structure.

The Filament Tower is one of the tallest structures of its kind.  It is located near the architecturally-significant North Christian Church, designed by Eero Saarinen, 850 Tipton Lane, and will be on display until December 2019.

Opening weekend for Exhibit Columbus includes Exhibition Conversations, which provide a platform for designers to express the intentions of their projects. Prado will speak about Filament Tower on Friday, Aug. 23, 6:25 p.m., at North Christian Church. The conversations are free and open to the public.

Collaborators on the research, design and construction of Filament Tower include Oak Ridge National Laboratory Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, Format Engineers Ltd., UT Fiber and Composite Manufacturing Facility and UT Institute of Agriculture Dept. of Entomology and Plant Pathology.

Sponsors of the project include Teijin Carbon, Owens Corning, Techmer PM, McLube, SGL Carbon and Hutch and Kevina Schumaker.

The project aligns with the College of Architecture and Design’s renowned Design/Build Program, which allows students and faculty to move their designs from paper and screen to constructed structures for the benefit of communities and for research purposes.