UTCS Colloquia -Dr. Philippe Block/Institute of Technology in Architecture, ETH Zurich, "Geometry in Compression Structures", ACES 4.304

Contact Name: 
Jenna Whitney
Oct 28, 2011 11:00am - 12:00pm

There is a sign-up schedule for this event that can be found at


Type o

f Talk: UTCS Colloquia

Speaker/Affiliation: Dr. Philippe Block/Institu

te of Technology in Architecture, ETH Zurich

Talk Audience: UTCS Facu

lty, Graduate Students, Undergraduate Students and Outside Interested Par


Date/Time: October 28, 2011, 11:00 a.m.

Location: ACES 4.3


Host: Dr. Chandrajit Bajaj

Talk Title: Geometry in Compression

Talk Abstract:
This lecture will present a new computati

onal form finding method for exploring three-dimensional equilibrium networ

ks, based on (re-)discovered understanding of the stability of the spectac

ular vaults from the Gothic. Through the use of intuitive graphical diagram

s, the presented approach now allows designers to gain control over the ex

ploration of structural form, which starts to blur the boundaries between

funicular (compression-only) and freeform design. Thanks to insights provid

ed by dual geometrical relations, this innovative approach furthermore all

owed to establish efficient solving algorithms for the nonlinear, inverse

problem of form rationalization. These new extensions of this research have
powerful applications not only for the design of freeform shells, but als

o for the equilibrium analysis of historical unreinforced masonry vaulted s

tructures with complex geometries. The power of this geometry-driven form f

inding method will be demonstrated through several built prototypes at diff

erent scales, addressing challenges in tessellation, fabrication constrai

nts, and efficiency in construction.

Speaker Bio:
Philippe Block is
Assistant Professor of Structural Design at ETH Zurich since 2009. He has

multi-disciplinary research interests including graphical design and analys

is techniques, computational form finding and optimization, and structura

l and architectural geometry. He obtained his PhD from MIT in 2009 for the

development of a novel computational method for assessing the safety of his

toric vaulted structures in masonry and for designing efficient, freeform

compression structures, awarded by e.g. the Hangai Prize from the Internat

ional Association of Shell and Spatial Structures in 2007. Collaborating wi

th architects and engineers, Block applies his research into practice for

the structural assessment of historic monuments and the engineering of nove

l compression structures with projects ranging from unique vaults in cut st

one to sustainable construction solutions for developing countries.