Topological Interlocking Assemblies are modular structures that unfold structural capacity by kinematically constraining their building blocks through interlocking.

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Topological Interlocking Assembly. 3D printed model presented in the exhibition +ultra. knowledge & gestaltung in the Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin 30/09/2016 – 08/01/2017

While masonry bonds bind their elements with mortar, assemblies with intricately interlocking modules exclusively constrain their elements through inherent geometrical and topological properties. Topological Interlocking Assemblies are not compression-only structures, the self-supporting arrangement works in all directions.

Topological interlocking systems can be traced back to medieval concepts of the reciprocal frames and Joseph Abeille’s flat vault.

In 1699 Joseph Abeille patented his ‘Flat Vault’ a planar assembly of truncated tetrahedron shaped stones. The interlocking system was supposed to span without the curvature of a vault. The way the building blocks interlock refers to medieval vaults with keystones. The Flat Vault never became a successful construction system but material scientists rediscovered it very recently.

The concept only recently re-emerged in material science. Planar materials fail when cracks are able to propagate through the entire dimension of an element. Topological interlocking assemblies are broken down into small-scale elements already. Thus the approach increases material strength by fragmenting the material. Cracks cease to propagate at the interface between to modules [see: Dyskin et al. 2001].The concept of toughening by fragmentation, the reversibility and novel design and fabrication methods like 3D printing make it worth the revisit this forgotten concept.

3D printed model.
3D printed model.

In this projectwe sought to re-conceptualize the system within an architectural framework by embracing computational design, analysis and fabrication tools and procedures. The goal was to develop geometrical differentiated, reversible, force-locked systems and the processes and methods to design and manufacture them.


Student work of various Topological Interlocking System from SAC and KTH.



A differentiation of the interfacing planes between modules allows for porosity in the assembly. Design Philipp Mecke
A series of three module cast in on piece for the load-bearing boundary of the system.

The research started in 2011 as a design studio at the Staedelschule Architecture Class (SAC) in Frankfurt and was further developed at the Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm and the DDU, TU Darmstadt.

Team DDU TU Darmstadt 2016:
Philipp Mecke (If Then Architects), Andrea Rossi, Oliver Tessmann,Philipp Vehrenberg

Student team Royal Institute of Technology Sthockholm (KTH) 2013:
Devrim Alan, Fanny Berg Zu Innhausen und Kny, Louis Bergis, Stavros Chrysovergis, Adrian Elizalde, Maria Frendin, Anne Andrea Harteveld, Mick Heijkens, Oskar Kalmér, Yvette Johanna Maria Kloek, David Kriechmair, Michal Kubrak, Joseph Laster, Joao Francisco Lopes de Sousa, Linnéa Mattsson, Andrés Mongrut-Steane, Alistair Nancarrow, Ellen Oldén, Jorge Pajares de la Peña, Theis Pedersen, Clayton Richenberg, Iida Maria Räsänen, Anna Ström, Samantha Surath, Timothy Wong, Maryarn Sabzpoushan, Luis Gisler

Student team Staedelschule Architecure Class (SAC) 2011:
Donlaporn Chanachai, Nasim Delkash, Philipp Mecke, Rhea D’Silva, Fenny Diana Laurin, Youngjae Chung