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The Aesthetics of Structure

Aesthetic structural design

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by Genci Shteto
Shteto 2019.05.20
14:49:45 +02'00'

Master Course Thesis


Genci Shteto

The Aesthetics of Structure

Table of contents

1 Table of Images ....................................................................................................... 3

2 Summary.................................................................................................................. 5
3 Keywords ................................................................................................................. 5
4 Introduction ............................................................................................................. 6
5 Evolutionary aesthetics ............................................................................................ 8
6 Two distinct points of view ................................................................................... 11
6.1 Structure as a whole ....................................................................................... 11
6.2 Detailed architectural implication of structure ............................................... 16
7 Case study .............................................................................................................. 18
8 Structural details .................................................................................................... 19
8.1 Non Aesthetics structural design .................................................................... 19
8.2 Pure aesthetic structural elements .................................................................. 21
9 Structural discontinuation ...................................................................................... 22
10 Artificial tectonics .............................................................................................. 25
11 Structure under “pressure” ................................................................................. 27
11.1 The Citigroup Centre .................................................................................. 27
11.2 The Opera House ........................................................................................ 28
12 Structural accentuated ........................................................................................ 31
13 Empty architecture ............................................................................................. 33
14 Coordinateless .................................................................................................... 35
15 Mono-block ........................................................................................................ 36
16 The artistic structure .......................................................................................... 44
17 Conclusions ........................................................................................................ 50
18 Bibliography ...................................................................................................... 53
19 Technical notes .................................................................................................. 55

The Aesthetics of Structure

1 Table of Images

Figure 1. Pantheon section ____________________________________________________________________ 6

Figure 2. Caryatid's porch of Erechtheion on the Acropolis ___________________________________________ 9
Figure 3. Merilin Monroe towers _______________________________________________________________ 9
Figure 4. Inspiration sketches of Calatrava ______________________________________________________ 10
Figure 5. Hôtel du Département, Marseilles, France, Alsop & Störmer, 1994. ___________________________ 12
Figure 6. Cultural Complex Luz. Herzog & de Meuron, Sao Paulo, Brasil _______________________________ 13
Figure 8. Seattle Cantral Library. Rem Koolhaas __________________________________________________ 14
Figure 7. Statue of Liberty During and after construction ___________________________________________ 14
Figure 9. World Trade Centre Hub. Santiago Calatrava. ____________________________________________ 15
Figure 10. relationship between various structure features _________________________________________ 16
Figure 11. Two photo of the same element ______________________________________________________ 19
Figure 12. Admiral Hotel Kashar, Tirana. ________________________________________________________ 20
Figure 13. University of Berati ________________________________________________________________ 20
Figure 14. Educatorium of the University of Utrecht, Netherlands. Rem Koolhaas _______________________ 21
Figure 15. Mont-Cenis Academy, Herne, Germany, Jourda & Perraudin _______________________________ 21
Figure 16. Extension of Victoria and Albert museum competition. D. Libeskind__________________________ 22
Figure 17. China Pavilion. World Expo Park. Shanghai. He Jingtang 2010. detailed symbol of Duagong in the
middle. ___________________________________________________________________________________ 23
Figure 18. giesel library william pereira _________________________________________________________ 23
Figure 19. Stealth building. Culver City, CA. Eric Owen Moss Architects ________________________________ 24
Figure 20. Tago Architects: Sur Yapi offices, Turkey _______________________________________________ 25
Figure 21. Roal furniture store ________________________________________________________________ 26
Figure 22. 8 Spruce Street, Beekman Tower, New York by Gehry _____________________________________ 26
Figure 23. City corp center ___________________________________________________________________ 27
Figure 25. Opera House, Sydney, Australia ______________________________________________________ 28
Figure 24. Citicorp standing over St. Peter's church ________________________________________________ 28
Figure 26. Sydney Opera House; main floor plan (competition entry): two auditoria side-by-side with foyers at
the seaward end and access round the sides. [Drawing: Arup] _______________________________________ 29
Figure 27.longitudinal cross-section ____________________________________________________________ 29
Figure 28. simplified model of the concourse beams showing results of removing intermediate supports ____ 29
Figure 29. Utzon's original conception showing softer outlines of the roof-scape ________________________ 29
Figure 30. Final Roof scheme _________________________________________________________________ 30
Figure 31. Shell's modelling___________________________________________________________________ 30
Figure 32. Lisbon pavilion, Alvaro Siza Vieira _____________________________________________________ 31
Figure 33. Dulles International Airport, Washington, Eero Saarinen __________________________________ 32
Figure 34. Tower of ring, Eastern Design. Tianjin _________________________________________________ 33
Figure 35. St. Louis Gateway __________________________________________________________________ 34
Figure 36. Riyadh metro station, Saudi Arabia, Zaha Hadid. _________________________________________ 35
Figure 37. La grande arch, Johan Otto von Spreckelsen ____________________________________________ 36
Figure 38. sheraton huzhou hot spring resort' by MAD architects, huzhou, china ________________________ 37
Figure 39. CCTV headquorters-Rem Koolhass, Cecil Balmond ________________________________________ 38
Figure 40. Tadao Ando: Centro Roberto Garza Sada at UDEM, Mexico ________________________________ 39
Figure 41. joho architecture / jeong hoon lee: yongin M curved house, seul ____________________________ 40
Figure 42. 'the crystal' by schmidt hammer lassen architects, copenhagen, denmark ____________________ 41
Figure 43. cerejeira fontes arquitectos: cultural center in bergen, norway _____________________________ 42
Figure 44. Casa da musica ___________________________________________________________________ 43

The Aesthetics of Structure

Figure 45. Soumaya Museum, Fernando Romero. Mexico __________________________________________ 44

Figure 46. Chateau Cheval Blanc. Christian De Portzamparc. Saint-Emilion _____________________________ 45
Figure 47. TOD'S Omotesanto AV.Tokyo-Toyo Ito._________________________________________________ 46
Figure 48. Tokyo International Forum. Rafael Viñoly _______________________________________________ 47
Figure 49. Ludwig Erhard Haus Berlin, Germany, Grimshaw _________________________________________ 48
Figure 50. O-14-Reiser + Umemoto ____________________________________________________________ 49
Figure 51. Case rating in numeric valiues ________________________________________________________ 51
Figure 52. Grafical relationship Cases-conclusions ________________________________________________ 52

The Aesthetics of Structure

2 Summary

The definition of structure as a separate discipline in the history of architecture is

relatively recent, about 150 years ago. Before that time the aesthetic roles of architecture and
structure were indistinguishable and consequently the “aesthetic of structure” does not have
any definite meaning. In the complicated art of constructing the structure has always used as
a potential aesthetic instrument. Architecture in general despite structure, has too many other
aesthetic instruments like colour, light, decoration, geometric proportions, form etc. But the
structure or the load-bearing part of the building has a crucial aesthetic role because during
the cognitive process it exerts a direct psychological impact to the viewer while the structural
impression may affect the human “survival instinct”. In a certain way the perception of
structure represents the state of health of the building. A seemingly vigorous structure may
result more comfortable.

In 2009 Mr. Denis Dutton presented his theory of evolutionary aesthetic. According to
that theory our sense of beauty is related to our primordial instinct of survival and he explains
meticulously the way how this works. In fact the essence of Dutton’s theory is a simple and
short conclusion; deep in our mind the healthy and the beauty are the same thing. Inducting
this short conclusion to the case of structural aesthetic in this thesis is made a research to find
a relationship between various type of structures and how they reflect their healthy and how
their healthy is “converted” in Beauty.

The examples presented are rated in ascending order beginning with some random
cases and positioning the best ones in the end of the study material. In the end the research is
synthesized in a three dimensional graphic chart where the conclusions are combined with the
progressive positive proprieties of each case.

In conclusion the structure not only has a specific aesthetic charge but relating the
aesthetic of structure to its psychological impact upraises the structure to the top of
architectural aesthetic instruments.

3 Keywords

Structure, Architecture, Aesthetic, Psychology, Evolution, Form-active, Design,

Genetic-Code, Form-generator, Cognition process, Structural expressionism, High-tech,
Exoskeleton, Survival Instinct.

The Aesthetics of Structure

4 Introduction

During the history of architecture not all parts of the building have evolved in the
same way. The ornamental or functional features have reached their perfection in many
examples of ancient religious buildings or aristocratic residences during the renaissance, that
even today it may be considered incomparable. On the other hand the structural frame has
demonstrated to be not only the most rigid part of the building (as it normally had to be) but
also the most conservative component of it. Some dimensional records of vault or dome
spans have been unbreakable for more than one thousand years. (Pantheon 43.3m dome
diameter-Figure 1).

Figure 1. Pantheon section

The factors for this historical stiffness of the building’s structure have been first of all
technological. Designing methods have been also another obstruction factor till the computer
era arrived. But during the last century and more significantly in the last decades the tendency
is reversed. Structure is becoming the "final frontier" of the designing teams all over the
world. The idea is: everything can be achieved, maximal span, maximal tall. In this
consideration almost every famous building of the last period has been firstly a structural
achievement. This actual avant-garde role of structure is affecting and sometimes is even
transforming the architectural theory and consequently any or many aesthetical principles.

The Aesthetics of Structure

It is quite evident that structure is becoming the most impressive feature of every
architectural object. This presence and evidence of the building structure is changing also the
common taste from the sociological point of view. So structural engineering is definitively
becoming an artistic vocation. As an artistic activity it must be habilitated with a theoretical
aesthetic background.

But the concept of the Aesthetic Structural Design itself is not very usual in the
literature. Many books treat the relationship between structure and architecture in general and
do not consider designing and the creation of the structural model as an artistic process. At
this point emerges a crucial question:

What may really be Aesthetic Structural Design?

For sure Aesthetic Structural Design is not a definition. It cannot be found as such in
Wikipedia or in any dictionary or even in Google search. Nor it is a concept or paradigm
because nobody can imagine a clear thing, situation or process relevant that term.

“Any formulation of the criteria by which the merits of a structure could be judged is
inevitably controversial”. (Macdonald, 2001)

At the first glance Aesthetic Structural Design seems to be a fluid concept because if
we talk about an aesthetic structure this means that structure must be evident or somehow
manipulated artistically in a building. In this case making the structure more than a load
bearing supply should be an architectural choice. This means that we are just talking about
architecture and not about structure. In other words the aesthetic attributes of structure
become aesthetic attributes of architecture.

If we see the structural design as a finished process or as a distinct process in the

design timeline, it remains just structural design. Suckle’s study of ten leading architects
suggests that architects determine the building’s form after considering a wide range of
factors that usually, in the first instance, do not include structure. (Suckle, 1980)

But let’s consider structural design as a creative process or more as a “form giving”
one or as it is called lately a “morphogenetic process”. And it becomes something more than
just calculations. It becomes an aesthetic process.

The above conclusion may be the first approach to the question that the aesthetics of
structure exists. As it exists it is obvious that like everything else it must be searched and

The art of building has been always an art of modelling. This is a very important
distinction between architecture and all the other arts. Architecture through centuries has
been a modelling dependent art. With modelling is intended the whole process of designing,
calculating, scale models etc. Every aesthetic judgement and decision is made during the
modelling process. The quality of modelling has evolved tremendously during the last
decades. However in this modelling and designing evolvement, structural design has been a
little late comparing to other parts. Architects have been always more predisposed to modify

The Aesthetics of Structure

or to change or to optimised their work. Instead engineers due to their voluminous work have
always been more conservative to remake their work. This kind of gap between architecture
and structure don’t exist anymore.

5 Evolutionary aesthetics

“Beauty is the natural way of acting at a distance”. (Dutton, 2009)

To explain the aesthetic of Structure I am referred to a provocative theory of

evolutionary aesthetics. According this theory deep in our mind the healthy and beauty is the
same thing. This is a Darwinian evolutionary fact. Every living animal is capable to choose
the healthiest mate because this is a crucial factor of survival of its species. But how it can
distinct the most healthy member? From the point of view of survival the healthiest are those
individuals that inherit the best transmitted gens from their parents. Dutton points out the case
of the peacock. Charles Darwin analyses the same example (peacock) to explain his theory of
evolution. According Darwin the peahen is attracted by the most colourful plumage of the
peacock selecting the most “beautiful” one, just because through this beauty it reflects its
genome or a perfect genetic code, in other words it makes visible its high probability to
survive. So with the same example Darwin explains his theory of evolution and Dutton his
theory of beauty. But this selective mechanism is implanted in the human brain as a
biological heritage from our animal past. "Every physical aspect of the human organism is
open to the influences of evolution, and all will be in respects explained by it" (Dutton, 2003,
p. 3). So what is relevant from Dutton’s theory is just this short conclusion: Beauty and
Healthy for us humans, is the same thing. Art is a sophistication of this basic psychic
mechanism. It is very important to emphasise that the meaning of healthy or healthiness in
this theory refers explicitly to genetic code (DNA) i and not to the state of health of any
person or living creature in a certain moment.

Coming back to architecture – What may be a healthy building?

Many people would answer – “A green building”

The environmental aspect of the building is really important but its solidity is much
more. So a healthy building is primarily the one that resists against its own load, wind and
seismicity. And is the structure that makes the building healthy and as result: beauty.

The Aesthetics of Structure

Perhaps this idea

and this attitude trough
structural aesthetics are
much older than the
evolutionary aesthetics.
Ancient Greeks have
applied that marvellously.
Not casually Caryatid's
porch of Erechtheion on the
Acropolis, (Figure 2) this
unrepeatable architectural
masterpiece, impresses us
so much. The solidity or the
“healthiness” of that little
porch is evoked by a
Figure 2. Caryatid's porch of Erechtheion on the Acropolis
beautiful human
representation. The columns
are not just structural
elements decorated
aesthetically but the
expression of a greater
concept: these beautiful
women evoke our
subconscious feeling of
healthy. A "healthy"
structure means a perceptible
stable structure and logically
a stable structure is a
beautiful one.

Not casually the twin

towers in Mississauga
Ontario designed by Burka
Architects and MAD Studio Figure 3. Merilin Monroe towers
(Figure 3) are massively
known as “Merylin Monroe”

The Aesthetics of Structure

Another argument
in favour of this theory is
the famous archistar
Santiago Calatrava. There
are many sketches
designed by him
demonstrating how
Calatrava takes
inspiration from vigorous
human figures. In the
(Figure 4) the related
sketches indicates more
than just similar static
schemes to the
corresponding architect’s
works. They are a pure
reflection of the healthy
radiation of his

So a "firmitas"
structure is always a
"venustas" one. And
maybe in this perception
of firmness, we find the
Aesthetics of Structure.
This confirms that the
structure has its own
particular aesthetic
contribute in an
architectural object. In
other words structure not
only must be sustainable
or rigid but also it must
look like one.

Architecture is the
art of building. This Figure 4. Inspiration sketches of Calatrava
means that architecture is
that kind of art, toward which expectations are much wider than just visual effects.
Architecture is “felt”, architecture is “lived”. In this context the “skeleton” is included as an
organic part of the building. Its implication in the building may be very complicated in form
function modulation and aesthetic but the structure is always perceived.

The Aesthetics of Structure

Architecture is not an artistically dependent art but a service dependent as it tries to

fulfil a wide client range requirements. “Architecture provides a frame within which we live
our lives”. (Winters, 2007, p. 11) But the concept of claiming aesthetic values to structure is
far from the extreme functionalist concept of confounding architecture with the building
process. That kind of functionalism aimed to replace the art work with industrial processes
and sought the universal adoption of rationalized production methods and supersedes the
methods of the “craft era”. (Winters, 2007, p. 45)

In fact a countertendency may be observed. Structural design is becoming closer to

architectural process at the point that it may be considered as a faculty of architecture just like
interior design due to the high integrated computer aided design level. Such structural design
consideration must assume a theoretical background

The concept of the Aesthetic of Structure may be important if considered as an

intermediate discipline to be studied by architects and structural engineers. This kind of
knowledge must be learned with the same commitment from both of them and should serve
as a "native" common professional language during their common professional work. This
may help architects to be more “down to earth” in their compositional work and structural
engineers to consider structural design not just as a scientific solution to the problems brought
into focus by our need to make a building stay upright, or to create large spans.

6 Two distinct points of view

In general theoretical books about architecture are based on architectural examples or

building objects. These examples are picked up by the interest regarding the specific book
general stream of conclusions. Some great architectural examples are analysed in many books
but with different attitudes by the respective book author. This happens because in the
modern architecture is difficult to crystallise any distinct style. The same concern confronts
the thematic of structure.

Any way in many books about architecture may be traced two distinct points of view
regarding structure:

• Structure as a whole
• Detailed architectural implication of structure

6.1 Structure as a whole

"It has long been recognised that an appreciation of the role of structure is essential to
the understanding of architecture. It was Vitruvius, writing at the time of the founding of the

The Aesthetics of Structure

Roman Empire, who identified the three basic components of architecture as firmitas, utilitas
and venustas." (Macdonald, 2001)

Structure “as a whole” aims to consider the structural system of the building as a
unique framework of the same or similar physical characteristics. This consideration is not
always feasible because many buildings are a mixture of structural systems. (Charleson,
2005, p. 20). There are multiple reasons other than functional that lead to a combination of
structure schemes. In most cases this structural diversity is an architectural choice. Hôtel du
Département, Marseilles is a typical example.

Figure 5. Hôtel du Département, Marseilles, France, Alsop & Störmer, 1994.

The project can be read as an amalgamation of at least four distinct architectural

forms – two slab office-blocks linked by a transparent atrium, and two exterior elongated
tubular forms. (Figure 5) One, the Delibératif or council chambers, is free-standing while the
Presidential offices sit above the higher office block. The most obvious contrast between
structural solutions occurs within the first three storeys of the office blocks where exposed
three-storey X-columns align longitudinally along each side. While their structural form does
not relate to any other architectural qualities within the project, they function as transfer
structures for gravity loads. They support columns located on a 5.4 m office module at third
floor level and above and extend to a 10.8 m grid at ground floor level that is suitably large
for basement car parking beneath.

In other cases a countertendency is applied. Some buildings may be a conglomerate of

functions but instead their structure is used as a unifier of style or form as the Cultural
Complex Luz, (Figure 6).

The Aesthetics of Structure

Figure 6. Cultural Complex Luz. Herzog & de Meuron, Sao Paulo, Brasil

The complexity of the building is determined by the variety of functions but the
building seems to be a unique entity with its continuous and cantilevered slabs in all the floor
levels creating variable spaces in dimensions and altitude. ii

Despite structure uniformity, in general the relationship between structure and

architecture varies among two extremes: (Macdonald, 2001)

1- Structure totally unreadable, like the example of Statue of Liberty in New York
(Figure 5) or like The Seattle Central Library. (Figure 8) Although the statue of
liberty is a monument, considering architecture as “the art of building” it is pretty
evident that there is too much art of construction in that “monument” till the point
that it may be better considered a monumental architecture as other cases during
this thesis.
2- Nothing but structure like the case of WTC hub (Figure 9)

The Aesthetics of Structure

Figure 7. Statue of Liberty During and after construction

Figure 8. Seattle Cantral Library. Rem Koolhaas

The Aesthetics of Structure

Figure 9. World Trade Centre Hub. Santiago Calatrava.

“Sometimes the structure is undistinguishable from the enclosing and space-dividing

building envelope, sometimes it is entirely separated from it; most often there is a mixture of
elements with structural, non-structural and combined functions. In all cases the form of the
structure is very closely related to that of the building taken as a whole and the elegance with
which the structure fulfils its function is something which affects the quality of the
architecture”. (Macdonald, 2001, p. 8)

There are many factors that establish integral characteristics of a certain structure.
These characteristics are described deliberately by Angus Macdonald giving many carefully
selected examples and accurate interpretations for each case. These factors may be
summarised as follows:

• materials used
• Efficiency of structural schemes (arrangements)
• Efficiency of structural forms
• Relationship between structure complexity and structure efficiency
• Relationship between span, form and load bearing
• Relationship between structural efficiency and structural costs

In general these relationships are very complex and always interrelated. In the
following graphic is shown the relationship between structural efficiency and structural costs
with a particular span and load condition. The quantity and therefore cost of materials
decreases as more efficient types of structure are used. The latter have more complex forms,
however, so does the cost of construction and design increases with increased structural
efficiency. The curve showing total cost has a minimum point which gives the level of

The Aesthetics of Structure

efficiency which is most cost-effective for that particular structure. If labour costs increase in
relation to material costs, the location of the minimum in the total cost curve is displaced to
the left indicating that a structural form of lower efficiency will now be the most cost-
effective. (Macdonald, 2001, p. 64)

Figure 10. relationship between various structure features

Cost effectiveness must be figured out as an optimising process of a given structural

solution and not as the best structural solution because different structural options may
overturn the general cost of a building. The most famous architectural buildings are
significant examples of highest cost. This Idea is literally expressed as:

"The achievement of structural efficiency is not a necessary requirement for great

architecture". (Macdonald, 2001, p. 69)

6.2 Detailed architectural implication of structure

This other overall opinion about structure considers the ability of structures as
potential to enrich architecture. It is generally focused on details of structural elements or
isolated structural combinations to create architectural duties or architectural functions.

The Aesthetics of Structure

The classical version of this concept is that structure is a "columnar, planar, or a

combination of these which a designer can intentionally use to reinforce or realize ideas".
(Clark & Pause, 1985)

As such, structure can be used to define space, create units, articulate circulation,
suggest movement, or develop composition and modulations.

Structure is considered as contribute to architectural meaning and richness if it is

"given a voice".

Any author goes further by considering structural elements as pure conceptualist

"medium" like the idea expressed by La Vine (LaVine, 2001) "A ridge beam can symbolize
the social centre of a house".

In his book Carlson describes some typical architectural functions realised by

structure. (Charleson, 2005)

Aesthetic qualities in the building exterior like modulation, screening, filtering even
texturing in the case of bearing walls. He argues the role of the structure scaling in giving
monumentality to the building. Then he "enters" to the aesthetic and expressive role of the
entry as a connection point between exterior and interior. Logically he continues with the
importance of structure in the interior. Despite the modulation settled by structure according
the "critical functional dimensions" and despite the role of the structure in determine
flexibility or space creation or even articulating the layout of the building he argues "the
potential for exposed structure to enrich interior architecture visually and conceptually".
(Charleson, 2005, p. 104)

The Aesthetics of Structure

7 Case study

In this thesis a series of examples are evaluated by the rate of integration they have in
the designing process and how these examples may be positioned in an aesthetic structural
catalogue. In other words it will be described how these objects relate to the final conclusions
of the study.

Some of the examples may be famous and awarded, they may even be places of
pilgrimage. Few of them are Architectural icons and masterpieces of the modern history of
architecture. In general are selected those examples that have used the structure naturally and
have not constituted a tendency or a style in Architecture. Buildings like Centre Pompidu or
Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in Hong Kong have used the appearance of their structure
establishing a new style mostly known as “High-Tech” or “Structural Expressionism”. Being
a tendency or a style means to be a contemporary fashion while the aim of this thesis is to
point out that the aesthetic of structure is not a style dependent attribute. In general Aesthetic
Structural Design (as it is considered here) is different with the concept of beauty or
aesthetics of a building. Anyway the aesthetic of structure suppose to strongly contribute to
the aesthetics of the building.

It will be started with examples that have nothing to do with Aesthetic Structural
Design so they may be seen as "excusive premises" or as a first attempt of contouring from
the outside the concept of Aesthetic structural design. Then there are gathered some examples
of "discrepancy" between structure and architecture and what may be considered the most
representative examples of the term are placed in the end. In some other cases the reading of
the structure from the exterior turns out to be deluding in the interior. Another group is
compiled by objects which history of design or the reason of any structural solution may
transform the object to be more interesting from the point of view of Aesthetic Structural

This case study is divided in 9 sections

Structural details
Structural discontinuation
Artificial tectonics
Structure under “pressure”
Structural accentuated
Empty Architecture
The artistic Structure

The Aesthetics of Structure

8 Structural details

Structural elements are dimensioned by their efficiency taking in consideration many

factors like material cost, labour, load bearing and layout situation. But the most determinant
factor in their dimensioning are the dimensional proportions. These dimensional proportions
are accepted by the engineers from the very beginning of the design work without
calculations just by experience itself or by overall knowledge.

Surprisingly the kind of material is not the most important conditional factor.

In general these guiding proportions are for columns 1/15 and beams 1/12. These
orientating proportions may be called as Efficient Proportions. After calculations the
dimensions of structural elements may vary not more than 20% for an experienced engineer.
So these efficient proportions are the most probable and most average dimensions used.
Being such they became a collective memory. In other words common people statistically
collect unconsciously this kind of data (proportions) and use them as a mental reference. Here
proportions become aesthetic criteria of the structural element. Moreover the material is not
readable because as we said above the material is not the determinant factor. Logically we
may say that the filling of healthy that the structure radiate is and must be disseminated in all

8.1 Non Aesthetics structural design

In this example a mythic structural element is used as a decoration. Its falsity is quite
evident. Even to a non-professional viewer these examples will create the feeling that
something is wrong or out of place. (Figure 11)

Figure 11. Two photo of the same element

The Aesthetics of Structure

In the
following example
(Figure 12) the
columns are not
load bearing as they
are too slim.
Visually they are
used inside the slab
without a visible
beam, as they
usually do in the
Corinthian order. In
this case it may be
said that the

columns are out of Figure 12. Admiral Hotel Kashar, Tirana.

mentioned above.

In the next
example (Figure 13)
the upper small
columns are evidently
fake. Even though
there are 9 columns
they do not
correspond to any
rhythm or modulation
with the lower
columns. Pilasters are
too long and without
a visible horizontal
connection (normally
at the levels of the
slabs) giving the
impression of a Figure 13. University of Berati
vertically continuous
wall which, from a statics point of view, could not be so high. In this case Pilasters are out of
“efficient proportions” and consequently not aesthetic.

The Aesthetics of Structure

8.2 Pure aesthetic structural elements

These two examples are called “pure aesthetic structural elements” as the only reason
of their form is purely structural. But in the same time they result in an aesthetic case.

The building of The University of Utrecht in the Netherlands (Figure 14) is a project
made by the architect Rem Koolhaas and the engineer Rob Nissje. The two-story building
should withhold a large restaurant, two big lecture theatres and examination halls. The lecture
theatres upper slab with a relatively large span is solved in a very special manner. The
concrete slab of only 200mm is reinforced with steel reinforcement out of concrete, forming
some kind of false ceiling. It expresses how the structure works.

Figure 14. Educatorium of the University of Utrecht, Netherlands. Rem


The column shown in Figure 15 shows a reinforced wood

column increasing its moment of inertia by four steel cables. This
way the column resists much better to buckling and takes a small
aesthetic attribute.

Figure 15. Mont-Cenis Academy, Herne, Germany, Jourda & Perraudin

The Aesthetics of Structure

9 Structural discontinuation

This term is used to describe that kind of design or building that assigns different
consideration of structure from exterior to interior. This discontinuation is even more
important if the building is seen from the same public or people. In the three following cases
the exterior expresses a quite different idea from the interior part.

The design of the Extension Victoria and Albert museum-competition (Figure 16)
shows an external form not generated by the structure. The structure does not create real
architectural volumes in the way it is suppose to do in this building. The deconstructivist idea
of exterior is just an envelope where the floor plans are cut like elevation lines to the distorted
cubes surface.

Figure 16. Extension of Victoria and Albert museum competition. D. Libeskind

The China pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China, was the largest national
pavilion at the Shanghai Expo. This expensive building which is estimated some 220 million
US dollars reaches the height of 70m. The exterior part, in contrast with interior, is inlaid
with traditional symbolism. This symbolism evokes an excellent Chinese structural technique
known as the “dougong”. This ancient technique of two thousand years ago was used to
support large overhanging eaves by superposing a series of roof brackets at each corner just
like the red decorated timber like joists in the china Pavilion. iii In fact this red beams are not
used as structural elements. Even though they don’t represent structural elements per se, they
do evoke a traditional method of construction. Despite the architectural effect they are used
as ventilation ducts camouflage. The overall form is very useful as it creates self shading but
the aesthetic of structure is confusing not only because a symbolic structural tradition is used
as decoration (not representing itself as structure) but in the interior it disappears and
becomes the ending of air condition ducts.

The unity of the structural aesthetic is divided in two different treatments creating an
aesthetic structural ambiguity.

The Aesthetics of Structure

Figure 17. China Pavilion. World Expo Park. Shanghai. He Jingtang 2010. detailed symbol of Duagong in
the middle.

Figure 18. giesel library william pereira

The Giesel Library in San Diego California is a similar architectural solution but
contrasts with China Pavilion as aesthetic structural treatment case.

The Aesthetics of Structure

The Stealth building in Culver City, California is described by the architect himself:
“The aspiration is to investigate a changing exterior form and a varying interior space; to
construct a building whose constant is constantly moving, re-making both outside and
inside”. (Charleson, 2005, p. 48) In fact the idea is to create an evolving section over the

Figure 19. Stealth building. Culver City, CA. Eric Owen Moss Architects

length of the building from a square to a triangle. (Giaconia, 2006) The structure in fact is not
involved in this “movement” and as such it does not match the “evolving section” It just
works as a normal rectangular system not “obedient” to the whole. Even the main metallic
truss over the entrance is visible partly from exterior and mostly from the interior. This
discrepancy of aesthetic role of structure in relationship to the sophisticated architectural idea
is more visible in the interior. The problem is neither the architectural value, (as in fact it is
too innovative) nor the functional efficiency but the way columns are standing out tells of a
neglected aesthetic role of structure.

The Aesthetics of Structure

10 Artificial tectonics

If the general structural system is quite normal and the façade is transformed without
a special architectural volume but just remaking a certain surface this may be called an
artificial tectonics. It may create interesting makeover to the building but seems not to
involve the structure in a genetic way.

Figure 20. Tago Architects: Sur Yapi offices, Turkey

The construction company Sur Yapi office building in Turkey, (Figure 20) sits on a
dominant point of a hillside. The overall volume of the building is just the regular form of a
parallelepiped and the structure is regular and the columns have the same span. Using the
difference between the glassed and tiled plan is created a sort of irregular contour which is in
fact a triangular mesh gathering two polylines in two parallel plans but one behind the other.
The effect is spectacular and seems to compensate the regular genetic form of the building
that otherwise would be very monotone.

Even though it is not structural, the carved sharp form to the stone like surface, recalls
of a structural operation to the solid crust discovering a shining glass element. Just because
this is not a real involvement of structure but artistically it pretends to be like one, it may be
included in the group of artificial tectonics. The contrasting irregularity of the façade with the
well-modulated structure and overall volume, suggests just a visual effect to enrich the
elevation of the building in a decorative style and not an embryonic solution in the design
process timeline.

The RO-AL furniture store in Gjokaj near Tirana (Figure 21) is a two store exposition
building. The north glass façade is divided by some alucobond prismatic forms without any
structural role but in a certain way that may evoke structure. This evocation does not
correspond to the right impression that structure must conjure.

The Aesthetics of Structure

Figure 21. Roal furniture store

The third example of this group is the famous a 76-story skyscraper designed by
Frank Gehry. (Figure 22) “8 Spruce Street”, Beekman Tower, New York. The building
received the Emporis Skyscraper Award for 2011. The structure is a normal rectangular
system as the edges of the vertical plans are all straight. The original idea of “squeezing out”
the flat façade with a parametric like tectonics is used to make attractive a simple extruded

Figure 22. 8 Spruce Street, Beekman Tower, New York by Gehry

The Aesthetics of Structure

11 Structure under “pressure”

In this group are selected two cases of an extreme structural challenge. Their
structural design process was so problematic that made them famous also for their problems.
These cases are described thoroughly because knowing their design history the final
conception and consideration of the aesthetic of the building respectively may vary
drastically. Their novel story subject regards mostly the structure and how the fidelity to the
primary architectural idea led to “heroic” structural designing efforts.

11.1 The Citigroup Centre

The Citigroup Centre (formerly Citicorp Centre that now is known as the 601
Lexington Avenue) is a 59 floor skyscraper in New York City (Figure 23) known mostly for
its uncommon base structural solution. The architectural form, except of the 45°sloped roof
which was intended for solar energy use, is that of a common skyscraper form. What makes it
really impressive as a skyscraper, is the bottom. Practically the building begins at the tenth
floor creating an empty sheltered
space of nine storeys. The building
was designed by architect Hugh
Stubbins and structural engineer
William LeMessurier for Citibank,
and was completed in 1977.

This rare and apparently non

efficient structural solution
particularly visible at the bottom of
the building derives from a rare urban
situation. The tall building had to be
build almost over a church. When
urban planning of the skyscraper
began in the early 1970s, the
northwest corner of the proposed
building site was occupied by St.
Peter's Lutheran Church. The church
allowed Citicorp to demolish the old
church and build the skyscraper under
one condition: a new church would
have to be built on the same place
occupying one of the corners of the
construction site. Structural engineer
William LeMessurier set the 59-story
tower on four massive 35-m-high Figure 23. City corp center
columns, positioned at the centre of

The Aesthetics of Structure

each side, rather than at the corners. This design solution allowed the church to be under the
foot print of the skyscraper but with a huge structural sacrifice. To accomplish these goals
LeMessurier designed a metallic frame that conducts the load in the middle of each elevation
charging them consequently to the four 35m
high columns.

This unusual structural experience in

respect to an architectural or better to a city
planning solution was not proven before and
in fact it resulted problematic to wind forces at
an angle of 45 degree (diagonally) to the
vertical plans of the façade because of the
reduced base surface and the long cantilevers
of 22m out each column. This ascertainment Figure 24. Citicorp standing over St. Peter's church
was made by the structural engineer himself
casually, one year after the building was completed!

At that moment LeMessurier had two choices: to commit suicide or to secretly (not
publically) reinforce 200 bolted joints by welding two-inch-thick steel plates over each one of
them and save thousands of lives. The whole delicate and hidden to public operation was
completed in three months and the eminent disaster was made known only in 1995. After the
repairs, the building was absolutely safe.

11.2 The Opera House

The opera house is one of those architectural icons that identify a city and in this case
a whole continent. But the story of the construction of this building is long, complicated and
contradictory. The design of the building was never completed and the construction begun
without an executive project. In the beginning it was estimated 10 million dollars but in the
end it was estimated 5 times more. Also the time of construction was prolonged from 3 to 20

Figure 25. Opera House, Sydney, Australia

The Aesthetics of Structure

It is difficult to find a book about architecture that doesn’t mention the opera house
from a specific point of view but Alan Holgate makes it a case study in his book and
describes meticulously, based on original documents, all the contradictions and difficulties of
this rare case in the architectural history. (Holgate, 1986)

The basic concept of the building was

defined in the architectural competition held in
1956-57 for the design of an arts centre for Sydney.
This basic idea, as Bussagli says in his book derives
by the Ancient Maya civilisation concept, ruins of
which Utson visited in late forties. This Maya
concept comprises only two elements: a platform
and roofing. (Bussagli 2005). In essence that
concept was an ingenious idea to hide the flying
tower. (Figure 27) Figure 26. Sydney Opera House; main
floor plan (competition entry): two auditoria side-
Holgate explains that the project was by-side with foyers at the seaward end and access
round the sides. [Drawing: Arup]
divided into three parts. Stage I comprised the
foundations and podium; stage II the 'shells'; and stage III the cladding, paving, glass walls
and interiors. But as the design process went on parallelly with the construction work, the
foundation sizes were estimated before the weight
of the roof was known and they were continually
revised as excavation revealed unexpected site
conditions. But the weight of the roof turned out Figure 27.longitudinal cross-section
years later to be much greater than the initial
estimate. Sometimes portions of the structure
had to be demolished because of design

Holgate describes two main structural

design problems in his case study: First the
Concourse, (entrance over the road) which is in Figure 28. simplified model of the concourse beams
fact a 50m beam which according the structural showing results of removing intermediate supports
engineer could be solved very efficiently with
tow supporting columns as the Figure 28 shows but solved at considerable expense and
design effort and second “the Shells”.

The problem of the shells is very

related to the thematic of the thesis.

Holgate says that “Utzon failed to

realize that in order to ensure membrane
Figure 29. Utzon's original conception showing softer
action, a shell must follow a definite form outlines of the roof-scape
so that all forces produced by distributed
loads, in particular the weight of the shell itself, are transmitted in the plane of the membrane.

The Aesthetics of Structure

There is a range of possible forms which meet this criterion, but any deviation from the
disciplined form imposed by statics introduces bending moments which the thin shell is
unable to resist”. (Holgate, 1986)

The design and modelling of the shells lasted nearly 5 years utilising the technology
of that time and finished with the reassignment of Utzon who didn’t see his project finished,
for the rest of his life.

Substantially the disagreement

between Utzon and structural engineers was
the section of the shells. Utzon has insisted for
a Gothic like section instead the structural
engineers were in favour of a parabolic
section without a ridge in the middle, which is
Figure 30. Final Roof scheme
almost identical to the theoretical curve of the
inverted catenary.

The reason asserted by Utzon was purely

architectural instead the one defended by Arup
were purely efficiency issues, because an
inefficient form will increase dimensions and
consequently thicker dimensions would increase
dead loads still further and result in a possibly
endless spiral of increasing size and weight. But
as a matter of fact the final form (Figure 30) is the
one which was so much consequently asserted by
the architect but with enormous additional cost.

Aesthetically speaking, actually is difficult

to imagine the “Sidney Opera House” with the
presumed efficient form shells; smooth and
without ridges.

If Utzon was right (as certainly he was) Figure 31. Shell's modelling
here derives a very important conclusion: The
aesthetic of structure is subordinated to the architectural overall aesthetics.

The Aesthetics of Structure

12 Structural accentuated

In this group are selected two examples which structural clean scheme is imposed to
all the architectural form. In both cases the span is enormous and the internal horizontal stress
created by the static scheme is very apparent and impressive. This relationship between
architecture and structure may happen in rare cases where the most important thing is the
span. In both examples the covering concrete slab is just hanged and takes its natural catenary
curve section. Even the slab is of reinforced concrete it is deformable just as any other
catenary form (hanged chain like curve). Besides the deformability, it remains the problem of
rain water collection which not casually is collected in the middle of the curvature and the
problem of withstanding the colossal horizontal stress.

At ceremonial plaza at the southern end of the Portuguese Pavilion (Figure 32), built
for Expo ’98, (65 m long by 58m wide designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira) the problem of
horizontal stress of about 3000 tons caused by just the slim slab of only 20cm is solved by
two massive rectangular structures transformed in porticoes with nine transversal walls
instead of columns. Flatter the slab the higher the horizontal stress. The walls are used as
buttresses or diaphragms. In this case the deformability of the structure is not a problem
because the building is opened. While the problem of rain water is solved by a transversal
slope of 30cm.

Figure 32. Lisbon pavilion, Alvaro Siza Vieira

The Aesthetics of Structure

Figure 33. Dulles International Airport, Washington, Eero Saarinen

In the case of Washington Airport, while the static scheme is quite equal with the first
case, (Figure 33) the architectural effect is totally different. The slab curvature resembles the
form of a huge aircraft wing. Even more the asymmetrical section form of the building recalls
of the sloped position of the aircraft wing in the departure moment. But this asymmetry has
also a practical genius value: the rain water is collected towards the short columns of 13m
which are 8 meter shorter than the opposite row columns. The deformability is faced
excluding the extremes of the catenary form slab which result the most deformable. The
columns pass through the slab in purposeful wholes just to avoid the rigid joint. The floor
surface is smaller than the roof surface at least for two structural reasons: the sloped columns
afford better the weight from the slab and to exclude the lateral part of the deformable slab
which should be connected with glassed walls. Reasonably in the case of the Dulles
International Airport Terminal the structural concept seems to be leading all the design

The Aesthetics of Structure

13 Empty architecture

Empty architecture may be defined any construction not related to any technical
function. Television towers or bridges do not enter in this group even though they are
volumetrically empty. Empty Architecture building’s aim is just symbolic or monumental and
they usually become landmarks of the city. Their functional attributes are not fundamental
and sometimes are even missing. That’s why they may be called “Empty architecture”.
Surprisingly this “functional emptiness” is reflected in their visibility. In this thesis these
specific examples are relevant for the fact that their aesthetic values of Structure are the same
for their Architecture. These are the extreme cases where everything is architecture and in the
same time everything is structure. The artistic values of architecture are achieved mostly by
means of structure.

Figure 34. Tower of ring, Eastern Design. Tianjin

The “Tower of ring” by Japanese firm “Eastern design office” (Figure 34) seems to be
the most empty of all. It is situated in the middle of the downtown centre of Tianjin near
Beijing, China. Its simplicity seems to emphasise its emptiness. The whole structure is
created almost by only two kind of structural elements: the horizontal sinusoidal elements
and vertical thin columns made intentionally nearly invisible. During the night the invisibility
of the vertical elements is insured by a continuous changing colour led illumination. The
sinusoidal form of the horizontal elements creates the idea of a cylinder formed by a series of
thin rings and pulled up vertically by a supernatural force. But structurally this clever idea of
the sinusoidal pattern, in cooperation with the thin columns in the back plane forms a
triangular and undeformable surface which holds this tower of the height equal to a 20 floor

The elevation view or better the longitudinal section of the “Gateway Arch” is “filled”
only 8% (Figure 35). That makes it distinguishable from any memorial arch despite the 95
million dollars of the construction estimation value. The arch is the centrepiece of the
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri. The Gateway Arch was
designed by architect Eero Saarinen and structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel in 1947. Both

The Aesthetics of Structure

the width and height of the arch are 192m. iv The triangular section indicates a very intelligent
solution because visually from the most points of view it makes the Arch to seem slimmer
than any other form. A rectangular section seen diagonally would be represented wider for
the same inertia moment. The variable dimension of the triangle section from 16m per side
in the bottom to 5.2m in the top enhances the perspective effect of the entire structure seen
from the ground and also expresses the structural reaction of every section because the arch
has to be solid also from the horizontal wind forces normal to the plan of the Arch which
causes a bending moment progressively greater from top to the base of the section.

A normal load bearing arch that serves to create spans, is normally compressed
perpendicularly to the curve of the arch itself. In that case the section of the arch should be
constant and the theoretical form should be parabolic but as it bears only its own weight load,
which is always vertical, it takes a pure mathematical function form of “hyperbolic cosine”
that describes the shape of an inverted catenary curve. Even the Arch is hollowed to
accommodate a unique tram system that takes visitors to an observation deck at the top the
absence of a serving structural role and also the “scarce” volumetry makes this case to be
classified as Empty architecture.

Any way this kind of Triumphal arc leads to deep reflections. How much architecture
is in it?

Is it totally architecture or totally Structure? The simplest answer is: it depends on the
point of view.

Figure 35. St. Louis Gateway

The Aesthetics of Structure

14 Coordinateless

In the history of architecture the structural part besides the load bearing function has
also a very important role. Structure is used also as a referential virtual coordinative system.
All the axial and quote measurements in a design sheet are referred to the structure. In the
“coordinateless” architecture any coordinative system or at least any regular Cartesian system
doesn’t exist. Thus the referencing role of the structure is suppressed. This isn’t just a
practical question as the structure is the first to be build during the execution phase of the
project but also a conceptual question because the dimensional accuracy of the most sturdy
part of the building is always crucial. But maybe all of this belongs to the past because the
building process is possible due to the High-Tech positioning equipment and the concept of
traditional coordinative referring is entrusted to computer aided technology. This continuous
curvature in every direction except of the floor surface camouflages a clear structure. This is
the extreme case of amalgamation of the aesthetics of both architecture and structure.

Figure 36. Riyadh metro station, Saudi Arabia, Zaha Hadid.

Even though Coordinateless architecture is related pretty much to Zaha Hadid there is
infinity of them designed and constructed in the last years by many other architects till the
point that it may be considered a tendency. The futuristic new station in Riyadh v is a devote
example of the coordinateless architecture. (Figure 36) To contrast the flat surface of the
floor it is painted black instead all the other part is white. The white part has only curved
surfaces where vertices are totally missing. The structure is readable but is difficult to
distinguish the finiture from the load bearing part of it. Nevertheless the readable structure in
this case creates the perception of a “healthy organic” structure.

The Aesthetics of Structure

15 Mono-block

The buildings considered in this group are very different from each other but they still
have some common structural aesthetic characteristics. Somewhere in their height they differ
entirely from their basement footprint. Some differ in the top as “La grande Arch” and some
just in the ground floor as Yongin M curved house or “The Crystal” building. The structure is
not perceived as a framework but as a megalithic “stone edge” like frame. In some cases the
structure comports like a unique structural element as in “Cultural Centre” in Bergen,
Norway and in this case structure is read exactly the way it acts, but in majority of the cases
the structural system is ramified in much smaller structural elements. The architectural effect
is monumental and impressive. Anyway this kind of architectural and structural form, in most
of the cases, is perceivable only from outside. The interior normally demonstrates that the
structure is much more fragmentised than the exterior may show.

Figure 37. La grande arch, Johan Otto von Spreckelsen

La grande arch, (Figure 37) designed by Johan Otto von Spreckelsen is a clean
geometric form inspired by the famous triumphal Arch in Paris. Geometrically it represents a
cube of about 110m of edge carved by another smaller cube. It is also perceived as a clean
structural form: a single structural frame consisting of two vertical elements covered by a
horizontal element. The horizontal part is made useful only as it is used for expositional
purposes otherwise it should miss natural light.

The Aesthetics of Structure

The dimensions of the Sheraton “Huzhhou Hot Spring” Hotel (Figure 38) located on
the shores of Lake Tai in China are nearly the same with the Grand Arch. The Hotel,
designed by MAD Architects has some 320 rooms all viewing on the marvellous lake Tai in
the middle of which it is located. Even the destination, function and architectural style are
very divergent, from the point of view of Aesthetic of structure this building is very similar to
the precedent example except that the alternation from the footprint comes smoothly till it
become an arch on the top.

Figure 38. sheraton huzhou hot spring resort' by MAD architects, huzhou, china

The architectural idea is very interesting because practically the plan layout of each
floor is the same and it just “moves” left or right giving the form of the horseshoe which on
the other hand, is a lucky symbol. This solution makes possible the use of the upper part
differently from the “La grande Arch”. The Aesthetic of this “monoblock” structure may be
found to the toroidal form partly immerged to the waters of the lake. The Structural aesthetic
similarity of these two distant and diverse objects in all other their properties confirms the
conclusions drown in the beginning of the case study: The aesthetic of structure is not style

The Aesthetics of Structure

In the group of Monoblock Arches the 44-storey skyscraper of CCTV Headquarters

building is the most singular of all. It is designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren as
architects and Arup as civil engineering (Figure 39) on East Third Ring Road, Guanghua
Road in the Beijing Central Business District. vi It is surely an Arch but a “folded” Arch. So,
the half of the arch is rotated by 90° according a vertical axis in the middle of it. This kind of
folded arch regarding the aesthetic of its structure is a real transcendent contradiction.
Normally an arch is used to support other loads or at least to support itself. Moreover a
traditional arch is constructed by a temporary mount that is suppressed after the arch is
loaded. And is just the load that keeps the arch as it is. Instead this building has been an
extraordinary construction case especially for the manner it was “grown”.

Figure 39. CCTV headquorters-Rem Koolhass, Cecil Balmond

This process is described thoroughly in Arup journal (Carroll, et al., 2008). Where a
very important part of the design process was the defining of the procedure of how the
building should be erected because the final stresses in the building were therefore very much
linked to the construction sequence. So the construction method is an achievement too. The
structure was constructed “gradually deformed” in order that after junction of the two
separate towers, the cantilever load made the unique building (the folded arch) take the pre-
calculated form. In few words the inner elements were cut a little bit longer calculating that
the final stress would shorten them. The process was very complicated and controlled in
every floor level.

This “monoblock” structure perceived as a unique frame, it should never be

“structurally” recommended. In this case the aesthetic of structure should be defined as
“acrobatic”. Again the conclusion configured in the Opera House case seems evident: The
aesthetic of structure is subordinated to the architectural overall aesthetics.

The Aesthetics of Structure

Figure 40. Tadao Ando: Centro Roberto Garza Sada at UDEM, Mexico

Centro Roberto Garza Sada designed recently by Tadao Ando's (Figure 40) is a
“monoblock” structure which in comparison to the tree previous examples is more similar to
a bridge than to an arch. It touches ground in only two extreme spots and its twisted
volumetric form creates some stepped hyperboloid parabolic surface underside. Most of the
building is unfinished and unpainted concrete. The brutalist view of the exterior is also
implemented everywhere inside. Not casually it is called “Tabula rasa”. But the relevant
characteristics of the building to Aesthetic structural design is that the “monoblocked”
structure is almost perceivable in the interior because of some characteristics masterfully used
by the architect as the stadium like hall, natural lighted voids, the “flying” underside surface
used partially for stairs and the sloped auditorium floor because as it is mentioned in the
beginning of the chapter, the monoblock structures are difficult to perceive as such from the

In the main façade concrete wall of the Centro Roberto Garza Sada are incised the
words “The gate of Creation.”

The Aesthetics of Structure

Figure 41. joho architecture / jeong hoon lee: yongin M curved house, seul

The “Yongin M curved house” signs the second division of the monoblock group
which is characterised by the so called “the monoblock change” in the level of the ground. It
is designed by Korean firm JOHO architecture. (Figure 41) The functionality of the Villa is
the one of a quite normal villa with social functions in the lower floor and bedrooms upstairs.
What makes this building special is the structure. In order to comply with the client's need for
ample parking space, the two-story brick house rests elevated from the ground plane on a
concrete “tray” supported by three thin footings and a central circulation core. Structurally
speaking, the concrete tray serves as a “flying” foundation, because the upper structure is
planted over that concrete plane just like it was the real foundation.

The Aesthetics of Structure

The large three-dimensional steel structural system of “The Crystal” (Figure 42) acts
as a real “mono-block” structure while freeing the building of columns and creating
maximum flexibility in the office spaces. It is a creation of Schmidt Hammer Lassen for

Figure 42. 'the crystal' by schmidt hammer lassen architects, copenhagen, denmark

Nykredit headquarters in Copenhagen and as it is obvious, takes its name from its light,
crystalline form. vii The “monoblock” stands over three points and inducts the idea that all the
volume follows the deformation of the base. As in the previous example all the floors are
situated over a platform that still touches the ground level. The platform or base is also used
as a basement but this time is bended in 4 sloped surfaces and is not used as just a passive
“tray”. The upper structure is not settled over the platform but acts as a whole. The deflection
of the basement that interacts with the perimetric steel grid makes the volume undeformable.
In this case the “monoblock” structure perception corresponds to the real way the structure

The Aesthetics of Structure

The following ciclotronic like form building (Figure 43) is just a competition proposal
for a new cultural centre in Norway by Portuguese design and engineering firm Cerejeira
Fontes architects. If developed it should be a rare case of construction typology where a

Figure 43. cerejeira fontes arquitectos: cultural center in bergen, norway

single structural element constitutes a building almost entirely. This element, called spring
element, is used for helicoidal stairs like the stairs under the glass pyramid in Louvre but in
this case it creates space, a continuous space with continuous sloped floor. Of course the
slope is minimal but it makes possible a linear and continuous circulation in all the building.
It recalls the Goggenheim Museum (New York) helical passage but here the only exhibit is
nature itself. The structural form is perceived very well by the exterior and in interior better
than any other case. The structure if executed would be a challenge because the whole spring
type concrete tuboid form should be sustained in only one spot.

The Aesthetics of Structure

Casa da Música (English: House of

Music) (Figure 44) is a major concert hall
space in Porto, Portugal. It was designed by
Rem Koolhaas.

“Casa da Música is one of those jobs

in which architecture and engineering are
inseparable and strengthen each other. The
challenge was to fit a complex functional
programme into an object with an atypical
form while also ensuring that the support
structure should be an integral part of the
architect’s spatial concept” (Furtado et.al.

Casa da Música has two main

auditoriums, though many other areas of the
building can be very easily adapted for
concerts and other musical activity
(workshops, educational activities, etc.).

The structure is of unfinished white

concrete. The relatively simple poliedric
external form covers a high complicated
functional and structural form. But most of
the inner rooms are also poliedric replicating
the same external form giving the same
impression and perception of the main
structure. The overall form makes this
building the most significant example of the
monoblock group.

Figure 44. Casa da musica

The Aesthetics of Structure

16 The artistic structure

In this last group of examples the structure isn’t just perceived but it is used as an
artistic mean. This means of course that the structure is fully integrated to the aesthetic of the
whole building but this aesthetic is realised mainly by manipulating the structural framework.

Figure 45. Soumaya Museum, Fernando Romero. Mexico

The Soumaya Museum (Figure 45) has some complex characteristics mentioned in
this thesis like monoblock and coordinateles and in fact expresses a beautiful combination of
them. The building is located on a former industrial zone which today presents a very high
commercial potential and plays a key role in the reconversion of the area: as a preeminent
cultural program. The Soumaya Museum was conceived as a sculptural building that is both
unique and contemporary. Its avant-garde morphology and typology define a new paradigm
in the history of Mexican and international architecture. viii

The urban position of the building creates a dynamic silhouette for the viewer that
moves around it. The futuristic form and the High-Tech finishing style of aluminium give the
impression of an alien alike building. In fact the organic skinned volume of the building
seems to be used in a way that gives the impression of challenging the gravity lows, moving
freely in any direction. This is what may be classified as an artistic use of structure in this

The shell of the building is constructed with 28 steel curved columns of different
diameters, each with its own geometry and shape, offering the visitor a soft non-linear
circulation all through the building. Located at each floor level, seven ring beams provide a
system that braces the structure and guarantees its stability. The most interesting part of the
structure is the upper floor space which is covered by a roof that acts like dome with a lantern
in the top. It is a unique space and shows the same contour of the cover seen from the outside.

The Aesthetics of Structure

French architect
Christian de Portzamparc,
winner of the 1994 Pritzker
prize, conceived the new
“Chateau Du Cheval Blanc”
(White horse castle) in Saint-
Emilion. (Figure 46) The new
establishment is located under a
massive sweeping structure
with a rooftop garden and is
always visually and spatially
connected to the rows of
grapevines. The entirely
concrete structure consists in
six curvilinear load-bearing
elements that flow
longitudinally through the
building as the main support
system connected by a series of

It is clearly visible that

the six curvilinear supporting
elements are inspired by the
silhouette curves of a stylized
white horse. This materialises
the idea of the artistic use of the
structure far from just an
isolated role of load bearing.
These walls not only define the
external shape of the building
but determine all the interior of
it. The visitor can perceive their
smooth lines passing from the
entrance to the canteen. The so
called elements are transformed
from principal beams (or from
arches) to walls and then
cantilevered again alongside
their axis. The design concept,
even the green roof, is based
Figure 46. Chateau Cheval Blanc. Christian De Portzamparc. Saint-
Emilion entirely to these form giving
structural elements.

The Aesthetics of Structure

The Tod's building is located on

Omotesando, the famous tree-lined avenue in
Tokyo's Aoyama district. (Figure 47) It’s very
interesting how this small building of 260m2
of footprint succeeds to be a masterpiece of
architecture. It’s certainly for the artistic way it
uses the structure. The Zelkova tree planted
along the sidewalk in front of the building
seems to be the inspiration of the structural
choice. Fourteen Zelkova trees are casted
(projected) onto the six façades overlapping
their branches. The structure reflects the way
the load is “collected” from thin branches to
thick trunks and cleverly creating a free
entrance at the ground level. For sure the
seismic calculations are much more
complicated than the vertical collection of
loads because of the seismic horizontal forces
Figure 47. TOD'S Omotesanto AV.Tokyo-Toyo Ito. but these forces are not so much perceived
from the aesthetic point of view. ix

The Aesthetics of Structure

Maybe the only way to construct a structure of glass walls and glass roof of 63m of
height and 220 of length is the solution adopted in the “Tokyo International Forum”, central
lobby above the concourse level. (Figure 48) x The main structure is detached from the glass
surfaces and consists in a series of inverted metallic arches that keep the glass walls and glass
roof to the intersection line between roof and walls. In this way the frame of the glass walls is
just hanged from that spot and the frame of the glass roof works in traction as an arch tyrant.
(Anup. 1997) This makes both frames (walls and roof) much lighter comparing to any other
glass wall structure of more than 60 meters. The planimetric form gives the main structure of
the series of inverted arches a surprising form of the wooden frame of an ancient ship. Than
this “ship” is supported by only two columns giving the maximum flexibility to the hall. The
ship like structure is equally perceivable from the outside and from the inside because the
transparency of the building. This mixture of art, structural logic and clean perception of the
structural function arise this case to the most rated examples in this study. xi

Figure 48. Tokyo

International Forum.
Rafael Viñoly

The Aesthetics of Structure

Another series of arches is used in Berlin to hang a whole building. In this case the
arches stay upright and have a variation of span from 30 to 60m according to the building
footprint. The arches stand 7m parallel from each other. This may be considered the cleanest
structure in an urban environment except of any hanged bridge. But differently of any bridge
structure the Ludwig Erhard xii Haus, (Figure 49) building has up to ten floors. The arch is a
well known form-active structural element; meaning the most efficient structure. On the other
hand instead of columns (probably for the height of the building the columns should be
50x50cm) the slabs are hanged on ribs of less than 10cm of diameter. Using arches the
building is totally free of columns in the ground floor. All these factors make the whole
structure much lighter and this leads further more to material reduction. Another
extraordinary characteristic is the seismicity proof of the structure even though Berlin is not a
seismic zone. The hanged building is not “rigid” and consequentlly not fragile. The light
slabs float on air without striking dinamic forces on joints as in any supposed beam-column
system building. xiii

Arches are all different in dimensions from each other but their dimensions change in
a parametric design method creating a NURB curved surface except of the north elevation
that has to be flat, according to a 19th-century building code regulation. The structure of the
building is perceivable and readable in its integrity and in structural elements like for
example the rib joints. Is difficult to imagine why this kind of making structure, with such
numerous benefices is just an exemplar and not a usual way of building. At least, except of its
wondeful Grimshaw architecture it has a contribution on the Aesthetic Structural Design.

Figure 49. Ludwig Erhard Haus Berlin, Germany, Grimshaw

The Aesthetics of Structure

The structural envelopment of the twenty-three storey skyscraper O-14 xiv in Dubai
makes this building an excellent example for this study. This distinctive work of New York
architects Reiser + Umemoto, (Figure 50) reveals a white exoskeleton structure that is indeed

It is used as a load bearing structure, surrounding the slabs by a distance of one meter
and is connected by concrete beams. This way the typical plan of 600m2 except of the core of
stairs and lifts is free of columns.

It is used as an anti-seismic diaphragm and being perimetric (circumferential), it

performs this duty perfectly.

It is used as a protection against wind and horizontal forces caused by wind.

It is used as solar filter protecting a glass façade and reducing considerably the
cooling expenses.

It is used as air conditioner creating an air stream that moves vertically between the
white exoskeleton and the rest of the building. The movement of air cools the glass surface
behind the holey concrete.

But the most formidable property is the aesthetic of its structure. The white concrete
surface has a parametric rule of hole-pattern and this makes it more organic and in a certain
way gives life to the building. This impression of a “touchable” structure manipulated
artistically crystallises an exceptional case of structural aesthetic. This aesthetic do not
resides on the external pattern of the concrete envelope but in the essential and genetic role of
the structure.

Figure 50. O-14-Reiser +


The Aesthetics of Structure

17 Conclusions

In this thesis the “aesthetic” is considered as something to be searched in structure but

considering structure as a whole. The research doesn’t deal with aesthetic as a philosophical
problem. At some point it considers the evolutionary aesthetics to justify the reason why
some aesthetics must be scrabbled to the structure and why the structure must evidence itself
aesthetically: Furthermore it claims to reveal what is the aesthetic part of the building that
belongs to the structure and what is the role of this part to the general public’s attitude.
Looking for structural aesthetics means to reevaluate also the design process and the
architectural model generation. This research is limited to raise but not to answer questions
like: What new aesthetic strategy must be followed in the design process and what kind of
recommendations regarding the aesthetics of structure may be given to a design team for a
better result.

In the case study are analysed 28 buildings that are selected by the way the aesthetic
of their structure influences the aesthetic of the building. These 28 objects are divided in
groups by the main aesthetic behaviour of their structure and for each of them are expressed
few considerations that relate them to the final conclusions. Conclusions are divided in two
groups: general and referential.

Attached to the conclusions is compiled a table that rates the objects according to the
considerations expressed and the referential conclusions.

General Conclusions

Structure has its own «private» charge of aesthetics and beauty

Structural Aesthetics is not style dependent.

The aesthetic of structure is subordinated to the architectural overall aesthetic.

Referential conclusions

Structure may be aesthetic as it creates a perception of rigidity

Structure aesthetics and its «healthy» status may be perceived even though the
structure is not clearly read.

Structural Aesthetics is conceived in the integrity of the building, distributing it to

every part of the building its respective portion of “healthiness”.

Aesthetic Structural design is an integral design process using structure and its
aesthetics (as it is perceived here) as a form generator.

The following table and graphic shows the rating of every case described in the thesis
material according to the principles mentioned above.

The Aesthetics of Structure

Figure 51. Case rating in numeric valiues

The Aesthetics of Structure

Figure 52. Grafical relationship Cases-conclusions

The Aesthetics of Structure

18 Bibliography

Bodhe, A. S. et al., 1997. Case study of Tokyo forum. s.l., University of Arizona
research project.

Bussagli, M., 2005. Understanding Architecture. London: I.B.Tauris & co.

Carroll, C. et al., 2008. CCTV Headquarters, Beijing, China: Building the structure.
The Arup Journal, Volume 2, pp. 41-43.

Charleson, A. W., 2005. Structure As Architecture. Oxford: Elsevier.

Charleson, A. W., 2008. Seismic Design For Architects. s.l.:s.n.

Clark, R. & Pause, M., 1985. Precedents in Architecture. s.l.:Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Du Sautoy, M., 2012. A 4 Dimensional Cube in Paris. The Number Mysteries. s.l.:s.n.

Dutton, D., 2003. Aesthetics and Evolutionary Psychology. The Oxford Handbook for

Dutton, D., 2009. The Art Instinct -Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution.
Bloomsbury Press: New York.

Furtado, R., Oliveira, R. & Moás, L., 2006. Casa da Música, Porto, Portugal. Naples,
Fédération Internationale du Béton.

Giaconia, P., 2006. Eric Owen Moss. Milano: Skira Editore.

Holgate, A., 1986. The art in structural design. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jodidio, P., 2007. Calatrava. Köln: TASCHEN.

Larsen, O. & Tyas, A., 2003. Conceptual Structural Design: Bridging the Gap
Between Architects and Engineers. London: T. Telford.

LaVine, L., 2001. Mechanics and Meaning in Architecture.. Minnesota: University of

Minnesota Press.

Macdonald, A. J., 1998. Structural Design for Architecture. Woburn: Architectural


Macdonald, A. J., 2001. Structure and Architecture. Wiltshire: The Cromwell Press.

Nakai, M., 2008. Unique Architectural Forms Enabled by Base-Isolation. Beijing,

China, s.n.

Prina, F. & Demartini, E., 2005. Grande atlante dell’architettura.. Milano:

Mondadori Electa.

The Aesthetics of Structure

Suckle, A., 1980. By Their Own Design. s.l.:Whitney Library of Design.

Time Inc. Home entertainment, 2004. Great buildings of the World. New York: Time

Winters, E., 2007. Aesthetics and Architecture. London: Continuum International

Publishing Group.

Web pages.

1. http://www.damninteresting.com/a-potentially-disastrous-design-
2. http://www.arup.com/_assets/_download/D6E6AB4D-19BB-316E-
3. http://www.arcspace.com/features/rafael-vinoly-/tokyo-international-
4. http://space-modulator.jp/sm81~90/sm87_contents/sm87_e_ludwigerhard1.html.

The Aesthetics of Structure

19 Technical notes

The Genetic code is the most concentrated information in space and complication. If converted in
binary numbers it is about 1.5 GB situated in the 1/1 000 000 part of a cubic milimeter. Every living creature is
generated from this information. But this information is not copied exactly the same as a computer file. The
errors bared in the genetic code make humans not the clone of each other. The Evolution is based just on these
“errors” selecting them in two ways descovered By Charles Darwin; natural selection and sexual selection. The
sexual selection is based on the ability of every living creature (animal or human) to “read” the quality of the
Genetic code of the partner.
This interdisciplinary centre, begun in 2009 and scheduled for inauguration in 2016, will combine
dance and music, amateurs with professionals, and performers with spectators in a 1750-seat theatre, 500-seat
recital hall, and 400-seat flexible experimental theatre. A wide ramp protrudes from the structure like an
elevated entry promenade that also contains an outdoor performance venue and connects to the 850-car
underground parking garage. The entry sequence presents the user with a lively, layered series of spaces that act
as a three-dimensional public square servicing the 2000-student music school, cafe, garden, ticket booth, or
iii The China pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China, colloquially known as the Oriental Crown was
the largest national pavilion at the Shanghai Expo and the largest display in the history of the World Expo. It
was also the most expensive pavilion at the Shanghai Expo costing an estimated US$220 million. The 69.9-
metre high pavilion was meticulously designed with profound meaning and symbolism. The architectonic
feature of the building was inspired by the Chinese roof bracket known as the “dougong” the traditional wooden
bracket used to support large overhanging eaves which dates back nearly 2,000 years. The overhanging columns
of the main China pavilion and exterior of the Chinese joint provincial pavilion are decorated with Diezhuan
characters, calligraphic characters used on official seals. The inverted pyramid design and the lower courtyard
offer a large overhang for self-shading. There is a 0.36 mega-watt solar energy system on the rooftop while the
thermal panels and insulating glasses on the exterior are energy-saving initiatives. Not casually this proposal
was chosen through 344 designs by architects from all over the world. [China Daily]
The Gateway Arch is an arch that is the centrepiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in
St. Louis, Missouri. It was built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States. At 192m, it is
the tallest man-made monument in the United States, the largest architectural structure designed as a weighted
or flattened catenary arch.
The Gateway Arch was designed by architect Eero Saarinen and structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel
in 1947. Construction began on February 12, 1963, and ended on October 28, 1965, costing US$13 million at
the time (approximately $95 million in 2013). The monument opened to the public on June 10, 1967. Both the
width and height of the arch are 192m. The arch is the tallest memorial in the United States and the tallest
stainless steel monument in the world.
The cross-sections of the arch's legs are equilateral triangles, narrowing from 16m per side at the bases
to 5.2m per side at the top. Each wall consists of a stainless steel skin covering a sandwich of two carbon-steel
walls with reinforced concrete in the middle from ground level to 91m, with carbon steel to the peak. The arch is
hollow to accommodate a unique tram system that takes visitors to an observation deck at the top.
The form is a pure mathematical function of “hyperbolic cosine” that describes the shape of an inverted
The new metro station will be built at the edge of the massive 3,300,000 m2 King Abdullah Financial
District in Riyadh and will act as a major interchange between three of six new metro lines. Comprised of a
series of undulating waves and a golden lattice that functions much like the ancient mashrabiya (Characteristic
Arabic window enclosed with carved wood screen) that filters sunlight and promotes natural ventilation.
The CCTV Headquarters is a 234m, 44-storey skyscraper on East Third Ring Road, Guanghua Road
in the Beijing Central Business District (CBD). The tower serves as headquarters for China Central Television
(CCTV) that was formerly at the China Central Television Building located at 11 Fuxin Road some 15km to the
west. Groundbreaking took place on June 1, 2004 and the building's facade was completed in January 2008.
Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren were the architects in charge for the building, while Arup provided the
complex engineering design. This structure includes 473,000 m2 of floor space. The building’s shape and form
meant that it fell outside the prescriptive codes for buildings in China.

The Aesthetics of Structure

In total, 133 343m3 of concrete went into the foundations of the Towers and podium. Some 42000 steel
elements with a combined weight of 125000 tonnes, including connections, were erected at a peak rate of 8000
tonnes per month.
The Crystal is a free-standing, environmentally friendly and award-winning extension of Nykredit
headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark. The typical floor plan is disposed in a Z-shape around two atria,
ensuring that all workstations are well lit and enjoy a view. The disposition of the plan allows the
accommodation of an open plan, separate offices or meeting rooms. The double-glazed façade has integrated
solar screens and is decorated by a subtle silk screen frit design that mitigates solar ingress, reflects daylight,
and gives the building a homogenous expression which enhances its sculptural form. The design team has
brought a holistic approach to the environmental strategy underlying the project. The scheme manages to
combine a completely transparent office building with an exceptionally low energy-consumption at 70 kWh per
sqm. The roof is covered with highly efficient photovoltaic panels generating 80,000 kWh per year.
viii The heterogeneous collection of the museum is housed in a continuous exhibition space spread
over six levels, representing approximately 6,000 m2. The building also includes an auditorium for 350 people,
library, offices, a restaurant, a gift shop and a multi-purpose gathering lounge.
ix All these fine façade and structure, or their integration, would not have been possible without base-
isolation system provided under the ground floor. The isolation system, consisting of 14 high-attenuation
laminated-rubber bearings, drastically reduces earthquake input and enables the building to resist it mostly by
the thin reinforced concrete façade. It also minimizes the earthquake-induced deformation of the façade and
consequently the width of the seal, or the allowance for deformation due to earthquake, between the reinforced
concrete façade and the glasses. In this building, the base-isolation system is an indispensable element for the
integration of façade and structure as well as earthquake-resistant performance. (Masayoshi Nakai. 2008)
x Located at the nexus of four subway lines and two major train stations, the site generates significant
pedestrian traffic. The theatre lobbies overlook the plaza which serves as civic space and visually filters into the
Glass Hall, set along the railroad tracks at the eastern boundary of the site [arcspace.com].
xi The Glass Hall facade uses approximately 20,000 square meters of 17.5mm laminated heat-
strengthened glass. Laminated glass is made by sandwiching a plastic interlayer between two panes of glass and
has been commonly found in car windshields for nearly 60 years. By using laminated glass the architects were
able to meet both the aesthetic needs of the centre’s design, as well as provide the safety and comfort features
necessary for a structure that would be highly populated [arcspace.com].
xii Ludwig Erhard was the first Minister of Economy (and later Prime Minister) and contributed greatly
and miraculously to the economic reconstruction of post-war West Germany.
xiii There are 15 arches wrapped by 0.4 mm-thick stainless steel installed at intervals of 6.9 meters,
suspending the floors from the first floor upward. The maximum span of these arches reaches 61.2 meters, with
a height of 38.6 meters. The suspending structure restricted the height of each floor to 3.53 meters, and yet, the
architects realized a ceiling height of 2.99 meters, which was an amazing feat. The office space has two large
atriums to break the monotony and bad taste of spaces without windows. The roofs between the arches are of a
shell construction and slabs of the office spaces are made of pre-cast concrete. Because the suspended floors
may move vertically by as much as 50 mm, the facade of the foyer looks like it has been buried under the ceiling
of the ground floor. [space-modulator.jp]
The name “0-14” refers to the site number of the Business Bay district, Dubai.