The relationship of form and structure in computational architecture
Student/s: Ioannis Mirtsopoulos
Date: August 29, 2016
Form and structure, two essential ingredients of architecture, have developed a distinctive connection throughout the years. The rules that define this kind of connection finally affect the quality of the architectural result. Gradually increasing usage of digital media in co-ordinance with technology evolution, all along the process of architecture inspiration and acquired capability of handling really complex expressions (mathematical or not), have been proven to define more and more the connection between form and structure. Undoubtedly, digital approach of architecture demands interdisciplinary co-operations in order to tackle with many different – and often unknown – critical issues and difficulties that always arise. Not only in terms of structure, but also in materially. As for structure, it is not considered as a solution demanding problem that needs to be answered after form is shaped. Especially in a period when Cecil Balmond wonders “why structure should space out equally, like soldiers marching on a parade ground?“. It goes without saying that structure is an indispensable part – or ingredient – that needs to be considered in such a way, simultaneously, so that it will finally be embodied and co-exist with the form in harmony.
I conducted a brief record of the way form and structure connect since ancient ages until nowadays .I tried to answer whether structure defines the form of a building or it is the form that defines structure and which is the role of the materials in this hierarchy. So I concluded that in order to manage this interaction between form and structure, structure needs to be studied and designed the very moment that either form or some other parameter, eg. material and its properties, changes through algorithms and programming languages which play a central role to the process of architectural design. Many times, various experimentations take place, allowing actualization of physical or digital simulations that will help engineers optimize the structure’s form, properties or even material, in order to succeed the optimum result in the form-structure system. All this procedure reveals the existence of a succession of steps towards the final architectural result which cannot be linear until a satisfactory design is produced. The second part refers to existing software capable of finite element analysis which are used for better results in optimization. There is also reference to the significance of programming skills in order to create a non-existing algorithm, fully customized to the needs of a specific form. Research groups and specialized teams of engineers are employed to deal with such difficulties. However most times structure still comes second, following the pre-defined form. Hopefully, as it is understood in the third part, in cases of universities’ research, computational structural engineering tends to be part of the overall procedure of architectural design. What is missing is the adoption of this tendency in real life built examples, given that technology already exists.