University of Cambridge > > Engineering Department Structures Research Seminars > Exploiting Structural Indeterminacy:Free-form unreinforced stone shells

Exploiting Structural Indeterminacy:Free-form unreinforced stone shells

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This lecture will present a new computational form-finding method for exploring three-dimensional equilibrium shapes. Through the use of intuitive graphical diagrams, the designer gains control over the exploration of form, which blurs the boundaries between funicular (compression-only) and free-form design. Several projects will demonstrate the power of this innovative method applied to the safety assessment of historic vaults with complex geometries in unreinforced masonry and to design explorations of funicular shapes, which range from unique signature vaults in cut stone to sustainable construction solutions for developing countries.

Philippe Block is a structural engineer and architect and is Assistant Professor of Structural Engineering at the ETH -Zurich in Switzerland, where he directs a research group in masonry structures and new structural design and fabrication approaches (see He studied architecture and structural engineering at the Free University in Brussels and earned his PhD from MIT in 2009, where he developed a revolutionary computational method for masonry vault assessment and design. For his PhD research, he was awarded the Hangai Prize from the International Association of Shell and Spatial Structures.

This talk is part of the Engineering Department Structures Research Seminars series.

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