ARCH 4101/4102/5101/7112
Rational Form Finding

12 photos of geometric or structural details of buildings

Credits in text below.

  • Instructor: Angela Pang with Guest Lecturer Yoshiyuki Hiraiwa
  • Time: M, W, F 12:20-4:25 p.m.
  • Location: TBA
  • Credits: 6

In pursuit of freedom in aesthetics, the disciplines of architecture and structural design have always worked hand in hand in expanding new possibilities of form finding and space making. Rationality is at the heart of modernism's approach and can be traced back to Vitruvian principles of logic and order of Classical architecture. In the period since World War II, there have been two overarching trajectories in structural design. The first is the gradual reduction of mass, as exemplified in the Domino House and the Miesian language. The other is the transition from clear Euclidian geometries in spatial structures (such as the Pantheon) to a return of
naturalism and free forms.

Optimization precedes superfluous forms. This studio highlights the collaboration between architects and structural designers in exploring new possibilities of form finding. The dominant value in this collaborative relationship has been that of structural rationalism, as expounded upon by the work of Brunelleschi and Viollet-le-Duc. Students will learn from this studio the possibilities of close integration between structural concept and architectural design, contrary to the conventional practice of a linear progress from architect's imagery to structural engineer's implementation.

The main goal of this studio is for students to discover the differences between geometry-based form making versus structurally based rational form finding. Structure is not only a problem-solving process but a key to new possibility in design.

This research-based studio is organized into three parts:

  • Part I is research of major paradigms of form/structure with both historical and more recent precedents. Cases may include Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, Candela's Bacardi Bottling Plant, SANAA and Sasaki's Rolex Learning Center at EPFL, Ishigami and Konishi's KAIT Workshop, Nishizawa and Sasaki's Teshima Art Museum, Siza and Balmond's Portuguese Expo Pavilion, and Ito and Balmond's Taichung Opera house among others.
  • Part II is an experimental workshop. Led by structural engineer Yoshiyuki Hiraiwa, who will join as a guest lecturer, we will conduct a series of experiments through scale models to test structural concepts. Hiraiwa will also offer a series of lectures on principles of structural concept design and its symbiotic relationship with architecture.
  • Part III caps the studio with a design charrette that is based on the work between research information and empirical knowledge. Emphasizing the importance of experimental explorations on new form finding, the project is to design a pavilion on a neutral site on campus.

Photo credits:

  • Top row from left: Mamoru Kawaguchi, Jumbo Koinobori, Kazo 1988; Alvaro Siza and Cecil Balmond, Portugal Expo Pavilion, Lisbon 1998; Cecil Balmond and Anish Kapoor, Marsyas, Tate Modern 2003; Berthold Lubetkin, Penguin Pool, London 1934
  • Middle row from left: Toyo Ito and Cecil Balmond, Serpentine Pavilion, London 2002; Shukhov Tower, Vladimir Shukhov, Moscow 1927; Antoni Gaudi, Sagrada Família, Barcelona 1882–current; Buckminster Fuller, Geodesic Dome, Montreal 1967
  • Bottom row: Junya Ishigami and Konishi, KAIT Workshop, Kanagawa 2008; Félix Candela, Narvarte church, Mexico City 1953; SANAA and Mutsuro Sasaki, EPFL Rolex Learning Center, Lausanne 2010; FOA, Yokohama Ferry Terminal, Yokohama 2004

View a PDF of this class description.