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Extraordinary Mechanics in Structures

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Structural engineers have made significant strides in exploiting forms to enclose three-dimensional spaces, provide shelter, or bridge two‐dimensional voids, such as water and roadways. In the absence of numerical prediction methods, they initially resorted to analytical theories to establish a good enough structural form. Pier Luigi Nervi, structural engineer, and designer of the exquisite Little Sports Palace (Rome, Italy, 1958), stated: ‘Resistance due to form, although the most efficient and the most common type of resistance to be found in nature, has not yet built in our minds those subconscious intuitions which are the basis for our structural schemes and realizations’ [1]. I place my scholarship in this force‐modelled form tradition and focus on the advancement of analytical and computational approaches to predict and design the overall properties, stability, and failure of structural surfaces. I am interested in shells, membranes, and rod networks because they exhibit fascinating mechanical behaviours. I will talk about how we discovered, studied, designed, and built surfaces that efficiently carry extreme loading, self-lock, adjust their stiffnesses, morph shape, or amplify motion. We have used these extraordinary mechanics to innovate systems ranging from macro-scale adaptive shading devices to medium-scale robotically constructed waste-free vaults and large-scale storm surge barriers.

[1] P. Nervi, Costruire Correttamente, Milan: Ulrico Hoepli, 1955

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