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Title: Structural expression and application in contemporary architecture
Author: Lim, Joseph
ISNI:       0000 0001 3610 108X
Awarding Body: Heriot-Watt University
Current Institution: Heriot-Watt University
Date of Award: 1990
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The development of structural technology has allowed the architect greater freedom in resolving problems related to the planning, aesthetics and construction of forms and spaces. As technology advances the range of structural solutions is increased to further enable the implementation of architectural ideas which develop independently from technology. Two fundamentally opposite philosophies embrace the structural integration of architecture: 1. that although technology "frees" architecture, it does not determine architecture. Thus ideas on which architectural forms are based may be sourced outside architecture and structure; for e.g. movements in art and analogies drawn from nature have influenced the ideology of several modern architectural movements. 2. that architectural form itself may be generated out of structural considerations and that the structural problem itself may serve as a rich source of architectural ideas from which forms and spaces may be generated. Both approaches operate in the contemporary context and are a reflection of the need to merge the design philosophies of architecture and structural technology. The thesis comprises three sections and is based on the assumption that structure is used to improve certain core aspects of architecture. This is related to allowing flexibility in architectural expression and planning, and the simplification of fabrication and construction processes. SECTION I of the thesis proceeds by investigating the background to the different design philosophies of the architect and the engineer in order to provide an understanding of the differences in their design priorities. Significant Modern Movement examples are studied in relation to the abstract ideologies which influence architectural form and structural integration in order to hypothesise on the core aspects previously mentioned. In SECTION II, these investigations are extended to case examples in the contemporary context and buildings are studied in relation to 4 main considerations: a) architectural b) structural c) utilitarian d) construction Interviews with project architects and engineers were conducted to substantiate the information from publications in refereed Journals and reference texts and project design reports. In addition to relying on papers written on the architectural and structural design development of the selected buildings, interviews with the relevant project consultants were arranged to obtain further background information relevant to the thesis. SECTION III then further discusses the factors affecting the development and application of structure in the architectural context in order to arrive at conclusions based on the recurrent themes and approaches identified in Section II case studies. These conclusions are interpreted in relation to Section I ideologies on structural integration and architectural expression and establish the common design aims of both architect and engineer in order to attempt bridging the gaps in their professional understanding of building design. The conclusions may be summarised as follows: 1) that there are three recurrent approaches to arranging structure in relation to architectural layout. Structure may occupy the a) periphery of the architectural plan b) the centre of the plan c) plan in intermittent fashion (as in the case of 2 -way modules) There are also examples where a combination of the three approaches is possible. 2) that the recurrent approaches to using structure in articulating the external form may be summarised as follows: i) the form implied by an ideal structural model may be adapted as an architectural form (for eg. a portal frame shed) ii) that structural form is modified to suit functional and aesthetic requirements. Nervi's Small Sports Palace in Rome is an example where a structural dome is modified at its peripheral edges and supports for utilitarian and aesthetic reasons). iii) that non -load bearing elements may be articulated within a regular structural frame, (as exemplified by Corbusier's Dom -ino principle) iv) that structure may be detailed as architectural ornament whilst maintaining essential structural action, (as in the case of Horta's Art Nouveau creation). v) that an appropriate functional structural may be developed to maintain a 'sculptural form" initially conceived, without consideration of support, (as in the case of Utzon's Sydney Opera House). vi) that structural form is developed intuitively and simultaneously as an expression of architectural form, (as in the case of the Pantheon). These recurrent approaches (1) and (2) are perhaps related to the development and application of structural configurations which do not excessively constraint the design of architectural spaces and the expression of architectural forms. Structural application in building is moving towards systems which use increasingly less material to achieve the required strength and rigidity required to transfer loads in ways influenced by the shape of architectural forms and spaces. This is directed towards reducing structural dead weight which in long -span and high -rise structure is critical to both performance and cost efficiency. This may be achieved by avoiding the development of excessive bending moments in the structure and this may be part of the reason for the increasing number of applications of structural systems which transmit primarily axial loads, particular tension in steel construction. However, pure tension or compression structures do not exist and the necessity to accommodate useable space and the shapes of architectural forms could imply the development of some bending in a system which first set out to avoid its presence. Bending necessitates the use of deeper structural sections which makes the structure visually bulky and more expensive in terms of material quantity. In this respect, the experimentation of flexible structures which acquire a satisfactory degree of rigidity with stressed cables and rods is aimed at providing more aesthetic and economical solutions than with conventionally rigid systems. The engineering aims of developing increasingly slender structures could therefore be aimed at economy and elegance whilst the architectural implications could be: i) A structural system which assists the aesthetic considerations of formal and spatial composition, or one which does not necessarily restrict modes of aesthetic treatment in order to provide support. ii) A structural system which allows flexibility in the layout and use of floor space and in the interpretation of spatial character. iii) A structural system with the means to optimise fully, the commercial potential of prime sites with complex building constraints. iv) A structural system which effectively integrates mechanical service and electronic networks without compromising aesthetic themes. v) A structural system which provides the option of satisfactory levels of natural lighting and ventilation as well as enabling an energy efficient building. These ideals are related to the structural improvement to architectural form and space and could perhaps serve as the common design aims of both architect and engineer.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Architecture ; Building ; Structural engineering