Shells, Tensile Structures and Kinetic Systems

The integration of shells, tensile structures and kinetic systems into architectural projects requires specialized design, construction and material knowledge in order to enable a meaningful and successful collaboration between architects, engineers and manufacturers. The course investigates these advanced topics in structures and building technology through a series of lectures and case studies in combination with design projects and seminar presentations. It also addresses the fundamental difference between such systems and the so-called \”free form\” structures, which, with the recent advent of advanced digital design and production techniques, have come within the reach of architectural design. The course introduces the design fundamentals of shells (concrete and timber) and tensile structures (including tensegrity and membrane structures) and covers their principle structural behavior. Students are expected to employ both physical models and computational tools in the form generation of shells and membrane structures. The course also provides an overview of kinetic systems in architecture and introduces basic principles and design strategies for moveable architectural elements. The spatial analysis and basic structural analysis of kinetic systems are addressed. The understanding of the structural behavior of shells, tensile structures and kinetic systems is always considered in relation to issues of design. Questions of materials, building construction and detailing are discussed, including a brief review of related Computer-Aided Manufacturing Techniques.The course topics are explored through a combination of brief design exercises and a term project. Short seminar presentations are expected in the second half of the course. Students are required to have a basic knowledge of the design and analysis of structural systems as well as of construction materials and techniques. GSD 6201 and 6202 (Design and Analysis of Building Structures I and II) or equivalent are prerequisites. Capabilities of creating and editing 3D CAD models are desirable but not required. The course can accept up to 12 students.