Sunday, 18 December 2011

Cooperation: The Engineer and the Architect

This book, edited by Aita Flury, describes recent developments in the relation between architect and engineer in the design process, with focus on Switzerland and Germany. With contributions by Markus Peter, Adolf Krischanitz, Jürg Conzett, Mike Schlaich, Jospeh Schwartz and many others.

"This book provides a thorough description of just how varied and complex, how stressful and yet inspiring the cooperation between architect and engineer can be, and which projects become possible only through a cooperation of these two professions. [..] As such, it provides architects and students with the tools for future cooperation" (Birkhä

A snapshot of the realted panel discussion at the DAZ, on page 212/213.

Watch lectures by Fritz Neumeyer, Stefan Polónyi, Yves Weinand, Joseph Schwartz, and others, from the related symposium at the ETH Zurich online here.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Watch Prof. Block’s Lecture Online

Prof. Block, founder of the BLOCK Research Group, has been invited on October 31, 2011 for his first departmental lecture at the College of Design, University of Minnesota, USA. Invited for the lecture series “Global Practices in Architecture”, he talked about “New Masonry Vaults: Learning from the old master builders to design a better future”.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Modelling Funicular Structures

Funicular structures are structures whose geometry is based on the funicular polygon, a term from graphic statics. Such structures work mainly with axial forces, almost without bending. Typical examples are arches and cables.

At the IABSE-IASS Symposium 2011 in London, I presented novel parametric tools for structural design in early stages. These have been developed at the Chair for Structural Design, ETH Zurich. Download the paper here.

Based on concepts of graphic statics, custom Grasshopper components have been implemented that allow for the interactive modelling of a planar funicular polygon in Rhino. Straight lines are interpreted as external forces, axial forces in the funicular are represented by tubes, red tubes are in tension, blue tubes are in compression. The tube section is proportional to the magnitude of the axial force.

These tools facilitate intuitive modelling of funicular, hence efficient, structural systems.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

3D Printed Stone Vault

At the Design Modelling Symposium in Berlin, a 3d printed vault prototype, designed by Norbert Palz and Ricardo Gomes, has been exibited.

The vaulted structure has been additively fabricated using the d-shape techology, it is 3d printed from an artificial sandstone.

The prototype has been designed using RhinoVAULT.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Padua Pavilion at ETH

Yesterday evening, on the ETH Zurich campus, the Padua Pavilion has been opened. It is a structure made of recycled timber, developed and built in two weeks by students of the studio Tom Emerson.

Structural consultancy and live music by Marcel Aubert.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Patents by Rem Koolhaas

Some of the famous architects and builders from the 20th century, as e.g. Le Corbusier, Buckminster Fuller, and Luigi Nervi, considered themselves as inventors and held several patents. Rem Koolhaas contributed in 2004 to this specific topic in an ironic way:

These and several other fake patents have been published in the book Content and the Bejing Manifesto.

In the same year, Rem Koolhaas also applied for a real patent, for a Panel for architectural design:

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Open Source Architecture?

Time seems to be ripe for the development of an open design license for architecture. The manifesto of Open Source Architecture (OSArc) has been published few months ago in domus.

Yesterday, Daniel Davis raised the exciting question, whether Evolute is right to patent a certain geometry of a freeform roof construction.

This question is related to the discussion, whether it is right and possible to patent architecture in general. In 2007, there has been a heated discussion in Switzerland and internationally, about a patent by the Swiss architect Hans Zwimpfer, concerning a special housing type. After a fight with the Swiss architectural societies BSA and SIA, he managed to claim patent rights for his invention in Europe and the USA. While this US lawyer defends the idea of applying patent law to architecture in specific cases, this Swiss lawyer states that it is more appropriate to protect a work of architecture, as cultural artifact, by the more flexible copyright law, rather than the rigorous patent law.

Considering that patent law seems to be applicable to the rather fuzzy case of Zimpfer’s architectural innovation, there seems to be a good chance for Pottmann and RFR to defend their protected rights concerning geometric innovation of support structures.

The introduction of an Open Source Architecture license may be a way to actively defend intellectual property in architecture against protection by others.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Herzog & de Meuron online

Since Wednesday, HdM’s website is finally online. Interesting design though...

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Experimental Wood Structures at ETH

Lately, a variety of experimental wooden pavilions have been erected at the ETH Hönggerberg campus, Zurich.

A pavilion made from bent plywood, designed and built by students of the AA Emtech, with support form the Structural Design chair.

Two pavillons built as reciprocal frame structures, as part of a research project at the chair of Architecture and Technology.

Jaú, designed and built by students from the studio Tom Emerson. Watch the time-lapse here.

The Sequential Structure 2, Build by students of the chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication, in cooperation with the BLOCK Research Group.

Friday, 24 June 2011

OpenStreetMap for Rhino

Using rhino.python, a script has been written, that imports a static map from OpenStreetMap as background bitmap to Rhino, based on an address and zoom level entered by the user. In a first step, the geographical location of the address is identified using the Nominatim API. The location coordinates are used as input parameter for the MapOf service. Finally, the map image obtained from the web service is placed as background bitmap, in the right scale according to the zoom level.

Additionally, an appropriate EarthAnchorPoint is set based on the geographical location and scale. This allows for the export of geometry in relation to the imported static map to Google Earth using the KML format. The units of the Rhino file are automatically changed to meters, in order to obtain the right scale of the map.

Download the script here.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Computation for Sustainable Architecture and Urbanism

An upcoming symposium at ETH, Zurich: "The aim of this first symposium on computation for sustainable architecture and urbanism is to discuss information-based approaches that augment design processes and descisions towards sustainable buildings and cities." (SUAT)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Attila Csörgő

Last weekend, I saw the great exhibition "Archimedean Point" by the Hungarian artist Attila Csörgö in the Kunsthalle Hamburg: "Csörgõ’s work explores the margin between art and science. The artist conducts thorough experiments with precise machines of his own design and optical apparatuses that reinforce his likewise epistemological and playful, humorous approach. His interests lie in optical illusions, metamorphoses of space into surface as well as hypnotic plays of light that touch upon mechanical movements and other inventions, where he combines imagination and a curiosity for various physical and mathematical phenomena." For a describtion of the work by the artist himself, view the interview (Part 1 and Part 2).

Dodecaherdon=Icosaherdon (1999) is a kinetic construction, based on geometric correspondances between platonic solids. The dodecaherdon is transformed into the icosaherdon and reverse.

Möbius Space (2006-2010) an endless panorama photograph on a möbius strip, taken by a special camera.

Spherical Vortex (1999) is the path of a flashlight bulb made by connecting three seperate whirling movements of different velocity.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

RhinoVAULT - Shell Design for Rhino

RhinoVAULT is a plug-in for Rhino, being developed at the BLOCK Research Group by Matthias Rippmann, myself and Philippe Block, that allows for the intuitive design of compression-only shapes, offering a maximum control of the geometry. This software is written particularly for shaping unreinforced masonry vaults, but can also be used for designing efficient freeform shells. Based on the Thrust Network Approach (TNA), which uses a force network as discretization of the shape, it is possible to internally redistribute forces within the network using force diagrams.

A first application of the tool is a prototype of a freeform Catalan thin-tile vault erected at the ETH Campus, Zurich, Switzerland. It was planned and build by Lara Davis, and designed by Matthias Rippmann.

Pictures (c) by BLOCK Research Group

Monday, 9 May 2011

Möbius Loop-Pasta

Thanks to Steve Kass, Möbius strips are not only feeding the mind. (via Nerdcore)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Lecture at ESA

Philipp Eversmann and Paul Ehret kindly invited me to give a lecture at the Ecole Spéciale d'Architecture, Paris, on April 30, as part of the seminar In Silico Design. Recent research from the BLOCK Research Group and the Chair of Structural Design, both ETH Zurich, will be presented.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

"What do you want, brick?"

To express is to drive.
And when you want to give something presence,
you have to consult nature.
And there is where Design comes in.

And if you think of Brick, for instance,
and you say to Brick,
"What do you want Brick?"
And Brick says to you
"I like an Arch."
And if you say to Brick
"Look, arches are expensive,
and I can use a concrete lentil over you.
What do you think of that?"
Brick says:
"... I like an Arch"

Louis Kahn

from John Lobell: Between Silence and Light, p. 59.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Geometry and Proportion in Structural Design

A great book about construction history:
"This collection of essays covers the wide range of topics about structural design, structural design approaches and structural pioneers in honor of the Spanish architect Ricardo Aroca. [...] He radically changed the structural education of architectural students. Aroca pushed it away from a primary analytical analysis towards the discovery of the flow of forces [...] This book includes most important and interesting thoughts on the relation between architectural and structural forms and the fact that both disciplines – architecture and engineering – have differing approaches to the function of a structure." Cited from the book review by
Annette Bögle. The only handicap for me is, that some of the essays written in spanish are not translated into english.

In his essay, Santiago Huerta, one of the book's editors, discusses the fascinating theorem of transformation of structures by William Rankine, first described in the Manual of Applied Mechanics (1858). Huerta's full article can be downloaded here.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Bugs for Breakfast

Very promising new blog by David Rutten, the creator of Grasshopper. With a nice name ...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Geometry of the Venetian Gondola

On my last trip to Venice I realized, that the shape of the venetian gondola is not only elegant, but also functional and higly optimized. Developed in the mid-19th-century, the sections of the boat are asymmetric, in order to balance the weigth of the gondoliere, who stands one side of the boat. Referred to the traditional Tramontin shipyard, the geometry of the boat is curved in plan, according to the weight of the oar.

Plans (c) by Gilberto Penzo.

Photo (c) by Alberto de Marco.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Carlo Borer's Sculpture '422' Completed

Pictures (c) by Carlo Borer.

In previous posts I reported about the design and fabrication process of this piece of art.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Rhumblr - Blogging from Rhino to Tumblr

Document your design process online with on click!

I used Rhino.Python to write a script, that posts the current view to your Tumblr account. A service in Tumblr automatically sends your posts to Twitter, if enabled. The script uses the Tumblr API.

Download and installation instructions here.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Fabrication of Carlo Borer's Sculpture

The artist Carlo Borer and a 1:4 scale model of the sculpture.

Carlo rolling a chrome steel sheet at Senn AG

... verifying a curvature radius.

Grasshopper tools have been used in the design and fabrication process of the sculpture. Pictures (c) by Paul F. Talman.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Free-Form Masonry Featured on!

Thanks to Andrea Graziano, who tweeted eat-a-bug's last post on twitter, Bruce Sterling saw it and posted it on!
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