Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926)

The architectural work of Antonio Gaudí sparks much controversy – numerous critics ascribe his imaginative buildings to gothic and Moorish tradition, or credit his fluid lines to the Art Nouveau movement (Sweeney and Sert, 1960; de Solà-Morales, 1984; Descharnes and Piévost, 1971). Much of this may be true; his beginnings took imagery from these styles and the look of his elegant forms appear similar to the contemporary Art Nouveau architects, but Gaudí cannot be classified easily and this may only be a partial view of a complex man. Deeply religious, Gaudí felt a strong affinity for the Catalan literary and artistic movement called Renaixenca, manifest in architecture as a revival of medieval archaeology (Collins, 1960). He was concerned with the unity of principle between construction and ornamentation, and he viewed beauty in classical terms of proportion and harmony (Crippa, 2002; Martinell, 1975). Finding beauty in truth, he felt that ornament was to ‘contain nothing superfluous, but only the material conditions which make it useful; we must take into account both the material and the use which will be made of it…’ (Martinell, 1975, p. 125). Thus, his architecture often reflected structural moment diagrams or found form in geometry such as parabolic arches. On top of this he placed decoration and sculptural imagery imbued with symbolism.

Born Antonio Gaudí y Cornet in Reus, Catalonia, he descended from a family of coppersmiths. He moved to Barcelona in 1869, enrolling in architecture at the Escola Superior d’Arquitectura in 1870. Upon finishing school, Gaudí immediately obtained his first commission for streetlights in the Placa Reial and Pla del Palau. Finding a wealthy patron, he built a palace for Eusebi Güell (1885–1893) followed by an urban park (1900–1914). He designed other projects such as Casa Milá and Casa Batlló, but the passion of his life was the design and construction of the Cathedral of the Sagrada Familia which he worked on until his death in 1926.

Gaudí explored structure and ornamentation using drawings and sketches, but the most unique and interesting method of his conception and testing of ideas was his use of models. His studio, in the basement of Sagrada Familia, was filled with plaster casts, ornament, and detail models. His search for beauty in the efficiency of structure led him to build polyfunicular models. Using strings or chains loaded with small weights, he replicated the stresses on arches.

This sketch is one of the few remaining sketches by Gaudí, since many of his drawings, models, and personal records were destroyed by revolutionaries in 1936. A study for the Colonia Güell church, this image for the nave has been sketched on an inverted photograph of a funicular model. He understood the structural principles, but employed the photograph as a way to view the interior space. Needing to assign volume to the arches (missing in the cable arcs), he could sketch over them with the assurance that the structure and form would coincide. Without calculating a perspective, he could quickly view the interior space. Thin dark lines of the chains are covered with soft pencil or chalk shading, defining the vaults of the ceiling and the dimension of the columns and arches. Openings are articulated by darkening potential windows.

Here Gaudí was combining the media of model, photography, and sketching to gain the information he required. Although still a vague suggestion of the future space, he was able to see more than the thin wires afforded him. Similar to architects who use tracing paper over drawings as a foundation, Gaudí was using what he knew to find out what he did not.

Smith, Kendra Schank. 2005. Architects' Drawing.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Colour, Light and Shadow

In historical architecture the range of colours was limited and depended on available natural materials and paints. In new architecture the range of colours is much broader and harsh colours are feasible through the application of paints, enamels and anodized colouring (Couleur, 2001).

Colour, light and shadow have always had an impact on the appearance of buildings and structures and nowadays these factors may be used in new ways (Franck and Lepori, 2000). The choice of colours, in particular on external surfaces, was limited also by weathering requirements. Research has built up a vast knowledge on colours comprising the phenomena of brightness, lightness, blackness, greyness, whiteness, contrast, hue, shade, colour systems, combining and mixing of colours, colour harmonization and patterns, changing colour impressions and interaction between colour and people (Rihlama, 1999).

New chemical processes have created new types of paints and colours. Architects are willing to design the exterior or interior of buildings with new colour effects. To mention one realization only: the new Luxor Theatre in the Kop van Zuid district of Rotterdam has a leading red colour on the surfaces (architect: Bolles and Wilson AIT, 2001). Strong colours on buildings evince a similarity with the colouring of machines (cars, electrical appliances, furniture, etc.) and electrical cables. There are some architects who have opted to make certain colours their design trademark, e.g. Richard Meier with his steel panels enamelled to a white colour. Others, e.g. some Japanese architects, prefer the dominance of grey.

Lighting has grown into an important factor in architectural design, as can be seen from this statement from Le Corbusier (Sebestyen, 1998): ‘Architecture is the learned, correct and magnificent play of masses under light.’ Building with light has been applied ingeniously by architects and studied in great detail (Building with Light, 2001). Artificial illumination provides new visual effects. The New York LVMH tower designed by the Frenchman Christian de Portzamparc is illuminated nightly by a warm golden colour that gradually changes into a deep green. Colour may be applied over a surface or focussed on a spot or on several spots. If light is concentrated over several small points and applied to a dense pattern, it becomes a tool of articulation. This approach was applied by Renzo Piano at one façade of the KPN Telecom Office Tower in Rotterdam. Green lamp elements are set on this façade in a grid pattern. The lamps are individually switched on and off and are controlled by a computer program.
The new Dutch KPN Telecom building, Rotterdam.
Articulation may be realized through light spots.

Sebestyen, Gyula. 2003. New Architecture and Technology.



Tuesday, April 7, 2009


In Beedle (1995: 149) articulation is defined as follows: ‘Action or manner of jointing or interrelating architectural elements throughout a design or building.’ This definition is of general validity and it includes articulation of a ground plan to rooms, the division of a façade by repetitive decorations and/or dividing lines of floors or panels. Articulation of building volumes and of the urban space has acquired special meaning. Dutch architects (Aldo Van Eyck and Herman Hertzberger) designed buildings with strongly articulated premises and provided theoretical justification for this kind of articulation: ‘Things must only be big as a multiple of units which are small in themselves, for excess soon creates an effect of distance, and by always making everything too big, too empty, and thus too distant and untouchable, architects are producing in the first place distance and inhospitality’ (Hertzberger, in Lüchinger, 1981). However, articulation of the building volume (anti-block movement) and of the urban fabric does not exclude bigness. Articulation in our time is specifically used as a decorative (and constructive) subdivision of a surface (a façade or a ceiling) into uniform small decorative elements where there exists a complete neutrality regarding the size and shape of that surface. This led to the development of various ‘systems’ or ‘subsystems’ for façades, ceilings and other surfaces (Ornement, 2001).

Articulation of the space is achieved among other means by space divisions. In deconstructivist architecture (e.g. by Frank O. Gehry) spaces may be divided by quasi-virtual components, for instance, chains and grids.

Historical styles articulated the surface by a variety of flat or relief decorations. In modern architecture big flat surfaces, not articulated in any way, were employed.

Then in some designs large flat surfaces received an articulation of large sub-surfaces, frequently by marking these in specific colours. This type of ‘decoration’ may be applied in some cases but it never becomes a basic way of articulating and decorating surfaces.

CENG industrial building project, Grenoble, France, architect: Jacques Ferrier.
Example of façade building articulation with emphasis on parallel vertical lines.

IBM factory office, Basiano, near Milan, Italy, 1983, architect: Grino Valle.
IBM company design model.

Sebestyen, Gyula. 2003. New Architecture and Technology.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Fire Engineering Design

Research established the new discipline of fire science and fire safety engineering (Bickerdike Allen, 1996). At the present time there exists a solid stock of knowledge on fire in and around buildings and the design principles to ensure safety. This includes knowledge of internal and external growth and spread of fire and smoke, requirements concerning the means of escape in case of fire and access and facilities for the fire service.

The essence of fire safety engineering lies in the knowledge of the movement of fire including gases and smoke created by fire. This was helped by progress in fluid dynamics and advances in the mathematics of complicated computational problems. Much of the theoretical analysis of fire behaviour has been represented by zone modelling, which incorporates modelling of heat transfer and fluid flow in different zones in premises and buildings. It is now possible to compute in advance what could happen in a fire and by using the results of the analysis, to design buildings with a predetermined safety. This must also comprise a sufficient number of safe escape routes that are accessible, clearly recognizable and usable when needed.

Fire catastrophes have often been caused by incorrect management methods, e.g. unauthorized closing of exits. Management and foresight deficiencies were the underlying causes of a major recent fire in Volendam, Netherlands with attendant high mortality. Clothing has also been the subject of intensive study to clarify the differences in ignitability of different textiles and flame spread.

The extreme importance of fire safety obliges architects thoroughly to master matters of fire safety and to allocate adequate attention to it in the architectural design of buildings.

Sebestyen, Gyula. 2003. New Architecture and Technology.



Sunday, April 5, 2009

Space Structures

The development of space trusses led to the creation and application of truss systems with specific types of node: MERO, Unistrut, Triodetic, Moduspan, Harley Mai Sky, Catrus, Pyramitec, Nodus and others. The MERO system in fact was one of the first space grid systems and it was introduced in the 1940s in Germany by Dr Max Mengeringhausen. To this day it remains one of the most popular in use. It consists of prefabricated steel tubes, which are screwed into forged steel connectors, the so-called MERO ball. Up to 18 members can be joined with this system without any eccentricity.

The two basic types of these systems are the flat skeletal grid and the curvilinear forms of barrel vaults and braced domes. In the flat skeletal double-layer grids two parallel lane grids are interconnected by inclined web members. The grids may be laid directly over one another (direct grid) or be offset from one another (offset grid). These basic relations lead to different geometries of the system. Lamella domes and vaults consist of interconnecting steel or aluminium units. An important innovative step was the invention by Buckminster Fuller of the geodesic domes, to which reference has been made earlier.

The space grid systems mostly use circular or tubular members and their nodes may be characterized as solid or hollow spherical nodes, cylindrical, prismatic, plates, or nodeless. Most of these systems are double layered in that a top and a bottom layer composed from linear bars are interconnected by vertical or inclined, equally linear, members. The bars of single-layer space grids are usually positioned on a curved surface. A recently proposed new type of space grid is the ‘nexorade’, which is assembled from ‘nexors’. Nexors have four bars (eventually scaffolding tubes) and these are connected at four connection points, two at the ends and two at intermediate points by swivel couplers (Baverel et al., 2000). The various space grids provide abundant inspiration for creating different structures including domes, vaults and irregular structures and, thereby, have an important role in architectural design.Domes and vaults assembled from space trusses have taken on a great variety. One of the world’s largest is the hypar-tensegrity Georgia Dome (structural designer: Mathys Levy in cooperation with his co-workers at Weidlinger Associates, 1992). It has a sophisticated structural scheme. Its ridge cables make rhombs and its cables lie in two planes.

Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 1992, structural design: Mathys P. Levy, Weidlinger Associates.
Widespan roof, the longest span hypar-tensegrity structure made.

Deployable structures make temporary scaffolding unnecessary. Mamoru Kawaguchi designed the Pantadome system employing a series of hinges so that the completed dome can be raised all at once (Robbin, 1996). Kawaguchi’s first Pantadome was built in Kobe in 1985. He also designed the Barcelona Pantadome in cooperation with architect Arata Isozaki, which was at first preassembled and then raised with jacks and temporary support towers. Tensile structures may be two dimensional (suspension bridges, cable-stayed beams or trusses, cable trusses), three dimensional (cable domes, truss systems), or membranes (pneumatically stressed surfaces, prestressed surfaces).

Palau Sant Jordi, Pantadome, Barcelona, Spain, design: Mamoru Kawaguchi and Arata Isozaki.The space frame was built in the arena floor bowl, then raised with jacks and temporary support towers; in total 12 000 parts, specified with only 40 Formex expressions.

Structural design must deal with specific risks related to thin, tensile structures: non-linearity, wind uplift, buckling, stiffness, horizontal instability, temperature conditions, boundary conditions, erection methods.

Sebestyen, Gyula. 2003. New Architecture and Technology.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Membranes. Tensioned structures

Membranes and other similar products (suspended structures, hanging roofs, membrane roofs, tensile structures, etc.) were initiated by some eminent structural designers, architects and builders: Frei Otto, Horst Berger, Ted Happold and others (Otto,1954, Drew, 1979, Schock, 1997, Robbin, 1996). Following some smaller and experimental suspended roofs, the Olympic Stadium in Munich in 1972 was the first major realization of a long-span hanging roof. This had a roof assembled from acrylic panels, which, however, was an inappropriate material in view of the required lifespan of roofs.

The next step was the introduction by the American Horst Berger of Teflon-coated fibreglass. This opened the way to a broad application of membrane roofs. The first such structural membrane roof was built in 1973 at the University of La Verne, California, USA. The most important membrane roof hitherto has been the Haj Terminal at the King Abdullah International Airport, Saudi Arabia, 1981. Its Teflon-coated fibreglass membranes were designed by Horst Berger in cooperation with David Geiger and Fazlur Khan of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. This roof covers 460 000 square metres and is up to now the largest roof structure in the world. It comprises 210 tents, each of them with a surface of over 2000 square metres. As could be expected, it required the elaboration and realization of complex structural design, fabrication and assembly plans.

Haj Terminal, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 1981, structural designer: Fazlur Khan.
Tent roof system, 460 000 square metres in area.

Besides tents, tensioned roofs often follow in some way the form of umbrellas (Rasch, 1995). An equally important building covered by Tefloncoated fibreglass membranes was constructed at the Denver International Airport. The major designers were Horst Berger, Severud Associates and James Bradburn (Robbin, 1996). The roof is extremely light at 2 pounds per square foot. This is vividly illustrated by noting that if it were built from steel, its weight would be 50 times more and if from steel and concrete, yet more. In spite of its lightness, it bears the large snow loads of the region and it permits the passage of daylight sufficient for the requirements of the space below the roof. The roof consists of a series of tent-like modules supported by two rows of masts with a total length of 305 metres (Berger and Depaola, 1994). Along with the American firm Birdair, the Japanese Taiyo Kogyo Corporation may lay claim to being one of the world’s leading fabricators and installers of architectural membranes.

In the major components of tensile or tensioned structures, tension stress only is present. The important components are the masts (pylons, etc.), the suspending cables or other supports (arches, trusses), suspended roofing: metal sheet, foil, or fabrics and specially designed and constructed edges (clamped edges, corner plates, rings and others). Two basic surface forms are mostly used, individually or in combination: the synclastic and the anticlastic shapes. Spheres and domes are examples of synclastic surfaces. Saddles (hyperbolic paraboloids, i.e. hypars) are common for anticlastic shapes.

A special class are the tensegrity (tensional integrity) domes (Buckminster Fuller, 1983, Kawaguchi et al., 1999). Tensegrity structures have a geometry in which there are relatively few compression members and a net of pure tension members. The compression members do not touch, making a ‘tensegrity’. Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983), an American inventor, was the first to develop the tensegrity structures. His invention (and patent) was also the geodesic dome in which the bars on the surface of a sphere are geodesics, i.e. great circles of the sphere. Fuller based his domes on the geometry of one of the regular polyhedra (tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron, icosahedron). Other designs were using semi-regular poyhedra that comprise more than one type of regular polygon and other forms. One of the first geodesic domes was built at the Ford plant in Detroit in 1953 with a 28-metre diameter in which bars were connected to form triangles and octahedrons were built up from these. Following this, a great number of such domes were built all around the world, among them the ‘Climatron’ Botanical Garden, St Louis, Missouri (1960), and the one assembled in Montreal, Canada, 1967, with a height of 50 metres. Many variants of the geodesic dome have been developed during the years since its inception.

Sebestyen, Gyula. 2003. New Architecture and Technology.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Recesses, Cavities, Holes, Canted/Slanted Lines and Planes

Although energy conservation and control over cost would call for simple contours and building volumes, in new architecture recesses and cavities in the building volumes are frequent. This ensures deep shadows and picturesque buildings. Some authors call buildings with recesses, cavities or holes ‘eroded’ volumes. Buildings with volumes pushed into each other at irregular angles, are referred to as ‘crashed’ volumes.

Cavities and holes in a building, in particular at some height, are new in architecture (not counting arches) and also give rise to new technical problems, such as the wind blowing through the aperture.

Canted or slanted planes, façades, columns and other components cause particular difficulties for the architect, the structural and services engineer and in addition require special skill from the construction team. Many architecturally impressive tall buildings have been designed and constructed with such geometry. A notable realization is the Dongba Securities Headquarters, a 35-storey tower in Seoul, Korea and there are several others. In some historic buildings (for example, at the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, Russia), an arch in the building opens a throughway. In modern times, reinforced concrete and steel structures enable thedesigner to cut through a building in different spectacular fashions. Examples are abundant.

Sebestyen, Gyula. 2003. New Architecture and Technology.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Theory and Praxis

The aesthetics of new architecture has spawned many publications, essays, theories. Ultimately, however, architecture is concerned with buildings and not theories. Ben van Berkel, a young Dutch architect (designer of the Rotterdam cable-stayed bridge) insisted ‘that he is of a different generation, implicitly criticising them [meaning educators of young architects] for designing buildings to suit their theories’ (quoted from Philip Jodidio (1996) Contemporary European Architects, Volume IV, Taschen).

Sebestyen, Gyula. 2003. New Architecture and Technology.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ambience and Services

The ambience around and in buildings is the result of natural and of man-made causes: the climate, HVAC, lighting, etc. Whatever the nature of the cause, the responsibility falls squarely on the architect to reckon with it (Flynn et al., 1992). The extent and contents of the requirements concerning the ambience in buildings has grown ever more complex in recent times and embraces, for example, heat, moisture, mould, corrosion, water supply, energy control, fire, smoke, pure air and odour, natural and artificial illumination, sound, protection against lightning, vibration, security, electromagnetic radiation and various telecommunication services. Technical services cater for performance to satisfy the various requirements: HVAC equipment, water supply, telephone and telecommunications services, elevators, security and anti-fire equipment, etc. Each service may be and often is designed as a system and such systems increasingly are complex embracing two or more systems together with their interaction (Aspinall, 2001). For example, lighting may be combined with ventilation or may be incorporated in furniture. As a consequence, comprehensive environmental systems may be applied and the building as a whole may be considered as a comprehensive environmental system. When the architect designs a building, he/she must decide whether a new system or systems will be applied or whether existing systems will be incorporated in the design. Specialized firms develop their own (lighting, heating, etc.) system and system developers may develop complex systems to be applied by various designers (Flynn et al., 1992). Architects do not themselves design energy systems and services but have to be active partners with those who do design them since the dialogue must end up with comprehensive architectural-engineering solutions and the interrelation of services and structures results in specific aesthetic consequences.

Sebestyen, Gyula. 2003. New Architecture and Technology.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP