Rome’s Convention Center “La Nuvola” is the outcome of a Design Competition won by Massiliano Fuksas and is widely and commonly known as “The Cloud” due to the fascinating complex geometry of its fluid textile volume embedded in the surrounding glass box. The textile cloud encapsulates a “wooden jewel”: a doubly-curved envelope containing the complex’s main Auditorium.
The project construction team was looking for the right expertise to exactly follow up on the challenging design intent but preserving strict time and cost constraints in a stressful context.
RIMOND team was brought into the project in joint liability with the auditorium fit-out contractor, Devoto Design, to manage design geometry development and then directly translate it to the machines for computer numerically controlled fabrication of the 7,200 unique panels that finally formed wooden envelope hosting the Auditorium in both interior and exterior surfaces. The entire process required the development of a custom parametric BIM-based workflow set up by RIMOND team that required over 40 interconnected routines, used not only for fabrication but also for drawing generation, pointing on site, tracking and procurement control, in a full assistance and integration with the Technical Offices of both .
The challenge was enormous: more than 7,200 unique panels had to be designed and engineered by combining the double curvature of the design geometry with the material constraints of the wood and its steel backstructure. In order to obtain quality for continuity of curvature and a sealing joint no larger than 2mm accurate models combining fabrication simulation, geometry development, and architectural outcome had to be interconnected and allow for optioneering. For the exterior envelope final solution required were 2,349 panels, 3,586 meters of steel in 1,522 components while the interior envelope comprised 4,687 panels and 1,432 components with 3,394 meters of steel. Rimond responded with an advanced BIM-based workflow to analyze, optimize, manage the design geometry, driving all the necessary input during meetings with all the required stakeholders with different needs (designer, GC, construction site supervisors, subcontractors, consultants) and ultimately fabricate the panels.
The project challenges required the utilization of RIMOND full potential in terms of integration between advanced digital technology and management and problem solving capabilities.
The team established from the beginning a model-based workflow that helped determine a unique source for all design information that was precious during its development. Fabrication and architectural geometry were interconnected by a strategy of model bridges, generating different outcomes from a unified, lightweight and accurate wireframe source. A strategy that RIMOND was developing as R&D, that found in this project its first large application and was later refined and optimized further in following ones. The interconnected models set up a procedure for easy optioneering generation, that helped the final convergence of all interests in the selection of a solution that was combining budget and fabrication constraints with a satisfying architectural outcome that was respecting spatial, acoustic and fire engineering and all consultants constraints. The problem solving and design attitude of RIMOND was crucial in all this process of technical development, that is absolutely not-neutral, despite the common perception.
All necessary codes and constraints have been embedded by RIMOND in the model and the model kept on being enriched by maintaining its original rigor, to embed point cloud scanning to tailor exact design of the panel interior substructure, surveying the auditorium shell and core and refining the original steel model to allow for installation tolerances. Fabrication and construction were in that sense entirely pre-formed generating a fully mechanical model of the entire auditorium but at the same time keeping the model light thanks to the wireframe core already described. This strategy allowed to always keep a core light model, but then included “placing” routines for automatic generation of constructive parts with detailed information on connectivity, folds, holes, individual coding and connection geometry that were directly generating CNC information for straight fabrication.
The same core model, providing parametric and mechanical support, was also generating the “BIM role” as the coordination center for all data and project integration, including extraction of geometry for pointing devices on site, but also data processing for procurement, logistics and delivery control, including assembly and location drawings, through to the automated custom naming of all individual parts and their representation on coloured maps to help workers on site by reversing the standard situation where subcontractors use their own 2D drawings to build, in independent silos.
Coordinated and consistent CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) information including geometry, technical specification, and the unique name of each panel was then extracted from the BIM model and directly fed into the panel fabricator’s production process. This enabled complete digital, paperless engineering and production processes with optimized schedules.
The prefabricated substructures, panels and other components arrived on site with their unique codes with delivery and order managed using 4D BIM scheduling to minimize onsite storage. 3D surveying was used for the placement of each component. The process reduced lead times for panel manufacture and installation without comprising design intent and allowing the project to be completed without further delays.
The whole process, including the design and engineering development with all partners, information management, organizational delivery, fabrication management, order and cost control would have been incredibly more complex with a traditional method. For the project’s entire time span the RIMOND model and team were the unique reference source for all information helping stakeholders to be secure and informed. RIMOND was at the core of the process for two and a half years, ensuring its client and all its stakeholders to communicate full control over such a complex process with a tight, fixed budget.
The same effort with a traditional method would have required an incredible amount of hours and would be difficult to imagine and compute. Luckily, it’s no longer needed.