The development of structural technology has allowed the architect
greater freedom in resolving problems related to the planning,
aesthetics and construction of forms and spaces. As technology
advances the range of structural solutions is increased to further
enable the implementation of architectural ideas which develop
independently from technology.
Two fundamentally opposite philosophies embrace the structural
integration of architecture:
1. that although technology "frees" architecture, it does not
Thus ideas on which architectural forms are based may be sourced
outside architecture and structure; for e.g. movements in art and
analogies drawn from nature have influenced the ideology of
several modern architectural movements.
2. that architectural form itself may be generated out of structural
considerations and that the structural problem itself may serve
as a rich source of architectural ideas from which forms and
spaces may be generated.
Both approaches operate in the contemporary context and are a reflection of the need to merge the design philosophies of
architecture and structural technology.
The thesis comprises three sections and is based on the assumption
that structure is used to improve certain core aspects of
architecture. This is related to allowing flexibility in
architectural expression and planning, and the simplification of
fabrication and construction processes.
SECTION I of the thesis proceeds by investigating the background to
the different design philosophies of the architect and the engineer in
order to provide an understanding of the differences in their design
priorities. Significant Modern Movement examples are studied in
relation to the abstract ideologies which influence architectural form
and structural integration in order to hypothesise on the core aspects
In SECTION II, these investigations are extended to case examples in
the contemporary context and buildings are studied in relation to 4 main considerations:
Interviews with project architects and engineers were conducted to
substantiate the information from publications in refereed Journals
and reference texts and project design reports.
In addition to relying on papers written on the architectural and
structural design development of the selected buildings, interviews
with the relevant project consultants were arranged to obtain further
background information relevant to the thesis.
SECTION III then further discusses the factors affecting the
development and application of structure in the architectural context
in order to arrive at conclusions based on the recurrent themes and
approaches identified in Section II case studies. These conclusions
are interpreted in relation to Section I ideologies on structural
integration and architectural expression and establish the common
design aims of both architect and engineer in order to attempt
bridging the gaps in their professional understanding of building
The conclusions may be summarised as follows:
1) that there are three recurrent approaches to arranging structure
in relation to architectural layout. Structure may occupy the
a) periphery of the architectural plan
b) the centre of the plan
c) plan in intermittent fashion (as in the case of 2 -way
There are also examples where a combination of the three
approaches is possible.
2) that the recurrent approaches to using structure in articulating
the external form may be summarised as follows:
i) the form implied by an ideal structural model may be adapted
as an architectural form (for eg. a portal frame shed)
ii) that structural form is modified to suit functional and
Nervi's Small Sports Palace in Rome is an example where a structural dome is modified at its peripheral edges and
supports for utilitarian and aesthetic reasons).
iii) that non -load bearing elements may be articulated within a regular structural frame, (as exemplified by Corbusier's
Dom -ino principle)
iv) that structure may be detailed as architectural ornament
whilst maintaining essential structural action, (as in the case of Horta's Art Nouveau creation).
v) that an appropriate functional structural may be developed
to maintain a 'sculptural form" initially conceived, without
consideration of support, (as in the case of Utzon's Sydney
vi) that structural form is developed intuitively and
simultaneously as an expression of architectural form, (as
in the case of the Pantheon).
These recurrent approaches (1) and (2) are perhaps related to the
development and application of structural configurations which
do not excessively constraint the design of architectural spaces
and the expression of architectural forms.
Structural application in building is moving towards systems
which use increasingly less material to achieve the required
strength and rigidity required to transfer loads in ways
influenced by the shape of architectural forms and spaces. This
is directed towards reducing structural dead weight which in
long -span and high -rise structure is critical to both performance
and cost efficiency. This may be achieved by avoiding the
development of excessive bending moments in the structure and
this may be part of the reason for the increasing number of
applications of structural systems which transmit primarily axial
loads, particular tension in steel construction. However, pure
tension or compression structures do not exist and the necessity
to accommodate useable space and the shapes of architectural
forms could imply the development of some bending in a system
which first set out to avoid its presence. Bending necessitates
the use of deeper structural sections which makes the structure
visually bulky and more expensive in terms of material quantity.
In this respect, the experimentation of flexible structures which
acquire a satisfactory degree of rigidity with stressed cables
and rods is aimed at providing more aesthetic and economical
solutions than with conventionally rigid systems.
The engineering aims of developing increasingly slender
structures could therefore be aimed at economy and elegance
whilst the architectural implications could be:
i) A structural system which assists the aesthetic
considerations of formal and spatial composition, or one which does not necessarily restrict modes of aesthetic
treatment in order to provide support.
ii) A structural system which allows flexibility in the layout
and use of floor space and in the interpretation of spatial
iii) A structural system with the means to optimise fully, the
commercial potential of prime sites with complex building
iv) A structural system which effectively integrates mechanical
service and electronic networks without compromising
v) A structural system which provides the option of
satisfactory levels of natural lighting and ventilation as well as enabling an energy efficient building.
These ideals are related to the structural improvement to
architectural form and space and could perhaps serve as the common design aims of both architect and engineer.