INTRODUCTION

TECHNOLOGY 1 _ ELEMENTS: SPACE, MATERIAL, STRUCTURE

Architect, from Greek arkhi "chief"; and tekton "builder, carpenter", refers us from its etymology, on the one hand, to the definition of the architect as “master builder” and, on the other, to architecture as a practice rooted on traditional wood construction. From both perspectives, the figure of the architect recalls that of a leader with the capacity and the technical knowledge required to integrate and coordinate the different disciplines involved in the construction of harmonic buildings. However, this tectonic model also implies an idea of space that emerges as a result of assembling the discrete elements that constitute the building structure. From this point of view, the figure of the architect evokes, in addition, that of a “space builder” and, thus, the conceptualization and materialization of spaces with qualities stands at the core of our discipline. Accordingly, the building’s structure is not conceived in terms of purely functional optimization but, otherwise, as a material system that articulates and enhances the spatial concept. In this context, matter becomes the abstract instance that contains and distributes forces to the building supports but, also, a technical instance that unfolds multiple technologies and processes. Those include the use and reinterpretation of construction techniques grounded on the specific tradition of the cultural context in which they operate. Hence, the essential dialog established between space and structure ignites through the coherent articulation of material processes and the role of the architect builds upon the fundamental relationships between space, material and structure.

Stereotomic architecture is the one in which gravity is transmitted in a continuous manner. “It is a continuous structural system in which the constructive continuity is absolute”. On the contrary, in tectonic architecture the gravity is transmitted in a discontinuous manner. “It is a structural system with nodes and joints where the construction is conceived in an articulated form”. 

Alberto Campo Baeza. De la cueva a la cabaña. 2003

TECTONIC MODEL

ADDITION

SKIN + SKELETON

2D + 3D

DISCONTINUUM

STEREOTOMIC MODEL

SUBSTRACTION

SOLID + VOID

3D

CONTINUUM

TECHNOLOGY 2 _ PROCESSES: FORM, MATERIAL, FORCE

In the field of structural engineering, it is important to establish an essential differentiation between structural analysis and structural design. While the former involves the capacity to extract and apply mechanical principles to calculate, dimension, and optimize structural elements in a building, the latter requires, in addition, the capacity to integrate harmonically efficiency and aesthetics. This demands implicit attention regarding formal economy in terms of cost and energy, that is, a sound and balanced use of materials and resources. According to the definition stated by the Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, this economy is based on “the method of bringing dead and live loads down to the foundations … with the minimum use of materials”. Nevertheless, in the case of the structural designer, the economy of resources is consubstantial with the formalization of an elegant solution.  This condition was effectively described by the Uruguayan engineer Eladio Dieste: “The resistant virtues of the structure that we make depend on their form; it is through their form that they are stable and not because of an awkward accumulation of materials. There is nothing more noble and elegant from an intellectual viewpoint than this; resistance through form”. Hence, the art of structures establishes a close relation to Nature as a reference in the search for efficient and beautiful forms. This is the base of the form-finding methods and design processes developed by structural engineers such as Frei Otto, Heinz Isler, Robert Maillart, Felix Candela, Eduardo Torroja, Eladio Dieste, Pier Luigi Nervi or Sergio Musmeci. Their experimental models and construction processes incorporate an implicit idea of continuity in terms of the material expression of forces in accordance with the triad form, material and forces.

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Juan José Castellón

Assistant Professor

Dr.sc., ETH Zurich

 

RA: Estefania Barajas