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Prototower 01

DRX 2012 - Result

Modular Saddle Shell-Structure

This prototype is based on a concrete shell structure, developed by a vertical arrangement of modular saddle-shaped components. The shape of each component was computed as a tension-active system by spring-energy minimization similar to a soap-film model in the real world. Similar to these soap-films, the shape of each module depends largely on the geometry of a fixed boundary. In a following step, calculations of boundary conditions, spatial qualities, building form and elements were reviewed against the results of structural analysis. 
By changing these boundary conditions, a high degree of geometric variation and structural performance was achieved in each component. An extensive test of the structural capacities of individual modules as well as larger assemblies was carried out computationally to determine critical stress accumulations and identify regions for the introduction of openings in the shell. In a following step, slabs were introduced to serve as horizontal stiffeners, preventing the entire systems from buckling. The result is a very light shell structure of 2m maximum thickness at the bottom that functions structurally without the use of a central core. 
The technique of “form-finding” – the method of finding geometric form through the application of structural forces - is in no way  a novel concept in the field of architecture. Largely recognized for his contribution to the Olympic Stadium in Munich, architect Frei Otto embodies the aesthetic and logistical principles of form-finding in design. The Italian engineer, Sergio Musmeci (1926-81) is also a central figure in the study of form-finding as seen in his viaduct constructed over the Basento River (1967-74) in Potenza. Traditionally in architecture, form-finding has largely been applied to horizontal structures such as large span roof constructions. Extensive research of previous form-finding structures was carried out and considered in the calculations and prototype development. This has led to the development of a vertical shell structure based on the same force inversion principle that guided the design of prominent compression structures such as the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or Heinz Isler’s Shells in Switzerland.