John Ochsendorf: Form and Forces

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Cornell in Rome Spring 2019 Lecture Series

John Ochsendorf '96 is the director of the American Academy in Rome and the Class of 1942 Professor of Architecture and Engineering at MIT. A structural engineer and historian of construction, Ochsendorf is the author of Guastavino Vaulting: The Art of Structural Tile (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010). As a partner in the firm Ochsendorf DeJong and Block, he has contributed to numerous award-winning design projects, including two major installations at the 2016 Venice Biennale of Architecture. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships, including a Fulbright Scholarship to Spain, a Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, and a MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Ochsendorf was trained at Cornell University, Princeton University, and the University of Cambridge.


Will a Roman dome stand forever? How do Guastavino vaults achieve complex three-dimensional form in brittle ceramics? What new forms can be invented in low-carbon materials? This lecture presents ongoing research at MIT on the analysis of historic buildings and the design of innovative structures in masonry. By collaborating with engineers, architects, historians, and computer scientists, it is possible to achieve a better understanding of historical monuments, and to discover inspiration for new architectural forms in the future. The lecture will present new design tools developed at MIT, as well as recent award-winning structures.