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Architectural Structures

Supervisor(s)  Laurens Luyten 
Campus Ghent 
Language EN/NL 
Studio or individual?   Studio 
Max number of students: 5 students maximum 


Description of the project: 

The emergence of new and innovative structural design possibilities has regularly sparked waves of creative architectural projects. These developments, whether in the form of advanced structural technologies, improved understanding of structural principles, or enhanced calculations, have played a pivotal role in shaping the architectural landscape. We can observe their impact in various instances: the understanding of arches and vaults led to the creation of gothic cathedrals, the introduction of reinforced concrete gave form to modernism, and digital fabrication influences current design and making of architecture. It is evident that advancements in structural design, encompassing both technology and design principles, significantly influence the field of architecture. 

If we understand the structure of an architectural project as the system of elements that withstands its primary loads, such as live loads and self-weight, then the structure not only supports the project at hand but also accommodates (and determines) different infills of other possible architectural projects. Consequently, the exploration and development of innovative and imaginative structural designs (as bearer of architectural space) will open doors to a whole set of new architectural possibilities. 

The objective of this studio is to explore the realm of structural design as a catalyst for pioneering architecture. The primary tools for this exploration are structural models: physical models concisely constructed following specific structural principles, or digital models created in structural analysis programs. These models serve as sources of structural feedback, directing the design exploration process. 

To excel in this studio, students must possess the ability to create architecturally compelling spaces and a solid understanding of structural behaviour and theory. This understanding is crucial for correctly interpreting the structural feedback provided by the models. Through a process of model making, experimentation, critical thinking, and iterations, students will develop innovative structures that possess the potential for unexplored architectural investigations. 

To guide this exploration, students will study various cases of structural design that exemplify interesting structural principles (e.g., tensegrity, radial span, and reciprocal frame structures), advanced technologies (e.g., 3D printing, and parametric design), and compelling relationships between models and architecture (e.g., school building in Leutschenbach by arch. Kerez, Sydney Opera House by arch. Utzon & eng. Arup, and Munich Olympic Stadium by arch. Otto). 

At the end of this studio the student will have developed and made one or more sets of structurally sound models (physical and/or digital) that add to the existing knowledge of structural design, and bear this quality of architectural potential.  

Expected output: 

  • A manuscript presenting the exploration and development of the structurally sound models: their relation with existing cases, the analysis and principles of their structure, and their potential for architectural design.  
  • A set of physical and/or digital structural models as proof of design. 


References/Further reading:  

Addis, B., 2007. Building: 3000 Years of Design Engineering and Construction. London: Phaidon Press. 

Adriaenssens, S., Block, P., Veenendaal, D., and Williams, C., eds., 2014. Shell Structures for Architecture: Form Finding and Optimization. 1 edition. London ; New York: Routledge. 

Allen, E. and Zalewski, W., 2009. Form and Forces: Designing Efficient, Expressive Structures. 1st edition. Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley and Sons. 

Balmond, C., 2002. Informal. Munich: Prestel. 

Charleson, A., 2014. Structure as Architecture: A source book for architects and structural engineers. 2nd ed. London: Routledge. 

Ching, F.D., Onouye, B.S., and Zuberbuhler, D., 2009. Building Structures Illustrated: Patterns, Systems, and Design. Hoboken: Wiley. 

Conzett, J., 2006. Structure as Space: Engineering and Architecture in the Works of Jurg Conzett. London: AA Publications. 

Engel, H. and Rapson, R., 1967. Tragsysteme, Structure Systems. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. 

Holgate, A., 1997. The art of structural engineering: the work of Jörg Schlaich and his team. Stuttgart, London: Edition Axel Menges. 

Hunt, T., 2003. Tony Hunt’s Structures Notebook. 2nd ed. Oxford: Architectural Press. 

Jannasch, E., 2017. Fit Forms and Free Forms of the Masonry Dome. Nexus Network Journal, 19 (3), 599–617. 

Luyten, L. and Jannasch, E., 2019. The Structural Depth of the Masonry Antidome and Ambidome. In: Structures and Architecture: Bridging the Gap and Crossing Borders. Presented at the Fourth International Conference on Structures and Architecture, Lisbon, 24-26 July 2019, London: Taylor & Francis, 492–500. 

Macdonald, A.J., 2018. Structure and Architecture. 3rd ed. London: Routledge. 

Meissner, I. and Möller, E., 2015. Frei Otto: forschen, bauen, inspirieren / a life of research, construction and inspiration. München: DETAIL. 

Muttoni, A., 2011. The Art of Structures. Lausanne: EPFL Press. 

Rice, P., 1996. An Engineer Imagines. 2nd ed. London: Ellipsis. 

Sandaker, B.N., Eggen, A.P., and Cruvellier, M.R., 2019. The Structural Basis of Architecture. 3rd ed. London: Routledge. 

Sandaker, B.N., 2008. On span and space: exploring structures in architecture. Abingdon: Routledge. 

Schodek, D.L. and Bechthold, M., 2014. Structures. 7th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Education. 

Spiering, T.G.M., van Amerongen, R.Ph., and Millekamp, H., 2004. Jellema 3 Draagstructuur. 2nd ed. Utrecht: ThiemeMeulenhoff. 

Strauven, I. and Ney, L., 2005. Ney & Partners Freedom of form finding. Antwerpen: Vlaams Architectuurinstituut. 

Whitehead, R., 2020. Structures by Design: Thinking, Making, Breaking. New York: Routledge. 

Zalewski, W. and Allen, E., 1998. Shaping structures: statics. Wiley. 


Image: School building in Leutschenbach, Zurich, Switzerland 
Design by Christian Kerez, Photo by Walter Mair