Special Seminar: Geometry in Compression Structures

Special Seminar: 11 am, October 28, 2011, ACES 4.304:

Geometry in Compression Structures

Philippe Block, PhD
Assistant Professor in Building Structure
Institute of Technology in Architecture, ETH Zurich

This lecture will present a new computational form finding method for exploring three-dimensional equilibrium networks, based on (re-)discovered understanding of the stability of the spectacular vaults from the Gothic. Through the use of intuitive graphical diagrams, the presented approach now allows designers to gain control over the exploration of structural form, which starts to blur the boundaries between funicular (compression-only) and freeform design. Thanks to insights provided by dual geometrical relations, this innovative approach furthermore allowed 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 also for the equilibrium analysis of historical unreinforced masonry vaulted structures with complex geometries. The power of this geometry-driven form finding method will be demonstrated through several built prototypes at different scales, addressing challenges in tessellation, fabrication constraints, and efficiency in construction.

Short bio:

Philippe Block is Assistant Professor of Structural Design at ETH Zurich since 2009. He has multi-disciplinary research interests including graphical design and analysis techniques, computational form finding and optimization, and structural and architectural geometry. He obtained his PhD from MIT in 2009 for the development of a novel computational method for assessing the safety of historic vaulted structures in masonry and for designing efficient, freeform compression structures, awarded by e.g. the Hangai Prize from the International Association of Shell and Spatial Structures in 2007. Collaborating with architects and engineers, Block applies his research into practice for the structural assessment of historic monuments and the engineering of novel compression structures with projects ranging from unique vaults in cut stone to sustainable construction solutions for developing countries.

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