The last decade of technological advancements have set architects free to explore a vast variety of shapes, which in effect has given rise to a trend of complex free-form buildings in contemporary architecture. These shapes are generally based on pure aesthetics which often results in awkward and over-dimensioned structures or very costly construction. As a consequence, engineers have developed methods to inform the shape design such that form follows force. While these structures are highly effective, they lack considerations of practical constraints and reduce the need for interaction between the architect and engineer.
This research offers a novel free-form modelling technique with inherent shapes suitable for stiffening of shells through curvature. The methodology has been implemented in a software tool to help guide the design at the conceptual stage by providing upfront feedback to changes of form, thus integrating architectural vision with structural logic. The modelling approach is based on harmonics, which makes it possible to parametrise a given mesh by a few variables and simultaneously perform advantageous analysis of the geometry. The generated shapes are subsequently evaluated in terms of their buckling capacity, where it is evident that the inherent double curvature provides geometrical stiffness to better resist sudden failure due to high compressive forces.
Case studies of the British Museum Great Court Roof and other smaller examples, combined with a continuous dialogue with people from the industry, have been used to assess and enhance the applicability of the design tool in practice.