Taking its name from the Greek word for flora that has no distinctness between stem and leaf (such as algae), ZHA's Thallus was undertaken as part of the firm's investigation into computer and robot-assisted design by its Computational Design (ZHA CoDe) research group.
Looking a bit like a leaf itself, constructing the Thallus involved a six-axis 3D printer extruding a 7 km (4.3 mi)-long strip of PLA (Premium Polylactide Plastic) in a continuous line that loops repeatedly into an impressively complex pattern.
"Thallus continues ZHA CoDe's research into generating geometries through computation," says the firm. "The design explores differential growth methods through expansion and diffusion arising from a single continuous seed curve guided iteratively via simulation parameters while constrained to a reference surface."
Like the company's 3D-printed shoes, Thallus is really quite a modest little project but hints at something far more exciting: the possibility of ZHA producing a large 3D-printed building along the lines of Dubai's Office of the Future. This doesn't seem too big a stretch, at least in theory, especially considering ZHA boss Patrik Schumacher's interest in using modern technology to aid design.
Elsewhere at Milan Design Week, ZHA also unveiled another installation, Unconfined. It was conceived with Samsung to promote the recently-unveiled Galaxy S8 and S8+. Visitors journey through an environment inspired by the S8's design, with graphics from the new devices shown on large displays.
"Interacting with curved screens that float within space, visitors discover the fluidity of the new Samsung device," says ZHA. "Graphics from the new phones are sent to the large screens, surrounding visitors with within a swarm of digital creation before they move to the second zone where the wide variety of the S8's innovative features can be explored."
Both Thallus and Unconfined are on display at Milan Design Week until April 9.