Taiyuan Botanical Garden Domes
The new Taiyuan Botanical Garden Domes complex in Taiyuan, China features 3 domes ranging from 43m to 88m in diameter and from 12m to 30m in height. The largest of the three domes is the longest clear-span timber gridshell (non-triangulated) in the world. All three parabolic gridshells comprise light doubly curved glulam beams, arranged in two or three crossing layers.
StructureCraft came on early as the structural engineer for the domes, and through the cooperation of all team members on three different continents in less than a year, a unique series of long-span timber structures was delivered to the city of Taiyuan, providing a beautiful, world-class attraction that emphasizes both sustainability and structural integrity.
Simultaneously, we joined DMAA to design-build an impressive 2-way lattice structure as part of the Taiyuan Botanical Restaurant, located on the same site.
Engineering & Design
Timber was chosen for this project due to its adaptability to the geometric demands, its inherent fire resistance, structural flexibility, natural aesthetic, and environmental sustainability. When viewed from above, the timber structures resemble seashells, with the primary members tightly spaced on one side and fanned out across the surface of the domes. This complex arrangement means that every one of the 2,400 members is unique, so computational generation and digital fabrication techniques were paramount to the success of the project.
There were numerous challenges associated with a gridshell which is non-triangulated, including multi-modal snap-through buckling, which was mitigated through a light diagrid layer of nearly invisible, but carefully detailed cables and adjustable nodes, which were used to efficiently tension the cables.
Fabrication and Installation
Working closely with DMAA, the careful planning of the design, fabrication, transportation, and construction sequence came together in an amazingly problem-free erection on site. The glulam members were individually grooved to fit together in sequence, and the elements came together with very little site alteration required!