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Digital Grotesque ETH Zurich

Digital Grotesque is project conceived and created by architects Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger researched and carried out at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich , commissioned for the FRAC Center permanent collection.
Concept Description
We aim to create an architecture that defies classification and reductionism. We explore unseen levels of resolution and topological complexity in architecture by developing compositional strategies based on purely geometric processes.

In the Digital Grotesque project, we use these algorithms to create a form that appears at once synthetic and organic. The design process thus strikes a delicate balance between the expected and the unexpected, between control and relinquishment. The algorithms are deterministic as they do not incorporate randomness, but the results are not necessarily entirely forseeable. Instead, they have the power to surprise.

The resulting architecture does not lend itself to a visual reductionism. Rather, the processes can devise truly surprising topographies and topologies that go far beyond what one could have traditionally conceived.

Digital Grotesque is between chaos and order, both natural and the artificial, neither foreign nor familiar. Any references to nature or existing styles are not integrated into the design process, but are evoked only as associations in the eye of the beholder.


In the Digital Grotesque project, every detail of the architecture is generated through customized algorithms, without any manual intervention. A simple input form is recursively refined and enriched, culminating in a geometric mesh of 260 million individually specified facets. This single process generates many scales of architecture, from the overall form with its broad curvature, to local surface development, down to minute textures.





Digital Grotesque is the first human-scale immersive space entirely constructed out of 3D printed sandstone. A complex geometry consisting of millions of individual facets is printed at a resolution of a tenth of a millimeter to dimensions of a 3.2-meter high, 16 square meter large room. Its geometry was entirely designed through customized algorithms.


Team Credits

Maria Smigielska
Miro Eichelberger
Yuko Ishizu
Jeanne Wellinger
Tihomir Janjusevic
Nicolás Miranda Turu
Evi Xexaki
Akihiko Tanigaito

Video / Photo:
Demetris Shammas
Achilleas Xydis