LafargeHolcim Foundation Knowledge Turntable for Sustainable Construction


Compressed earth bricks by LafargeHolcim stay ahead of the curve

Norman Foster’s Droneport stands test of time at the Arsenale in Venice

The impressive vaulted Droneport prototype of low-carbon compressed earth and cement Durabric developed by LafargeHolcim is still welcoming visitors at the north entrance to the Arsenale in Venice. Created for the 2016 Architecture Biennale, the structure is symbolic as a gateway to the world’s most significant architecture exhibition.

The prototype for enriching civic infrastructure by leveraging new technology is perfectly aligned with the theme of this year’s Biennale, “Freespace” – which describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda. Architecture icon Lord Norman Foster and leading thinker on emerging economies Jonathan Ledgard initiated the Droneport project with the idea to build modular ports that would serve as a base for drones responsible for delivering cargo and medical supplies quickly and cost effectively, in particular for communities in Africa.

Product innovation for self-supporting vaulted structure

The LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction acted as a turntable for the collaboration needed to develop bricks to meet the specific requirements, and sponsored the production of 18,000 customized bricks as well as the structural design and the construction of the vault. The project brought together professors and students from five universities across Europe and the USA to develop the composition and fabrication of the compressed earth bricks with LafargeHolcim’s LCR.


The challenge was to ensure a compressive strength of at least 10MPa whilst minimizing the weight and thickness of each tile. Bricks up to task of creating the self-supporting vaults were produced in cooperation with Ochsendorf, Dejong & Block and the Block Research Group at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), which is led by Philippe Block, member of the Academic Committee of the LafargeHolcim Foundation. Although initially developed as a solution for the Droneport, the construction system is applicable to a wider range of needs – markets, schools and medical facilities, for example.

Inspiration for innovation and sustainable design

The 2018 Architecture Biennale’s theme of “Freespace” encourages reviewing ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world, of inventing solutions where architecture provides for the well being and dignity of each citizen of this planet. With record visitor numbers of more than 260,000 in 2016 and keen interest again in 2018, the Droneport prototype and its innovative compressed earth bricks from LafargeHolcim will continue to inspire architects and building professionals to pursue innovation in sustainable design.

Architects from ETH Zurich win Golden Lion with installation examining domestic space

The Golden Lion of the International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2018 was awarded to a team of young architects who created the Swiss Pavilion. Their exhibition was curated to encourage debate about the banal interior architecture renters are typically surrounded by in the Western world. Svizzera 240: House Tour was realized by a team of architects from ETH Zurich – a partner university of the LafargeHolcim Foundation. Alessandro Bosshard, Li Tavor, Matthew van der Ploeg and Ani Vihervaara, and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, commissioner of the exhibition, received the award at the official opening of the Architecture Biennale. This is the first time that the Swiss Pavilion has received this internationally renowned distinction.

Last Updated: May 29, 2018
Article Details
Venice, Italy
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