Sweet Structure Engineered from Chocolate

Recent advancements in computer modeling and design software now allow engineers to explore the feasibility of structures made out of unusual materials.
Sigrid Adriaenssens, Princeton University

"You can eat it for sure, but it doesn't taste as good as good Belgian chocolate does, I admit," said Adriaenssens (who has no relation to Sigrid Adriaenssens). "For structural reasons, we went with different fat than cocoa butter that resisted temperature. But because it resists temperature better, it melts less in your mouth and tastes less good than real chocolate does."

The group used this concoction to build a 30-by-30-inch (80-by-80-cm) prototype earlier this year, which has since held up on display at Princeton.

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Vienna University of Technology

The life-size pavilion -- measuring up to 15 feet high and wide (2.5 meters) -- would function as a temporary installation rather than a permanent structure, lasting up to about a month, Adriaenssens said.

Have Chocolate, Need Venue

The team originally planned to showcase their work at the grand opening of the Belgian Beer Café in midtown Manhattan this summer, but those plans have since fallen through due to logistical constraints, according to a spokesperson for the Belgian Beer Café.

But the team has not yet given up on the project, and will continue to search for a new venue.

"We can make it, we know that, it's just finding the right place to build it," said Adriaenssens at Barry Callebaut.

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Barry Callebaut plans to donate the chocolate for the project, and while the eventual installation would likely provide the company with some publicity, Adriaenssens does not expect to make money from it.

"It's just for fun," Adriaenssens said. "Sometimes that's also possible."

For the architects involved, the project also offers an academic opportunity to explore how material can inform design. A report of their chocolate pavilion development is currently under review in the journal Computer-Aided Design.

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