Form Matters

  • Sigrid Adriaenssens Form Finding Lab, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University Princeton


Master builders throughout history have made significant strides in exploiting forms to enclose three-dimensional spaces, to provide shelter and protection or to bridge voids, such as water and roadways. In the absence of numerical prediction methods, they resorted to trial and error construction practices or structural theory to establish a good enough structural form. Today, we experience a renaissance of free forms as an architectural expression. Yet, structural performance as the main design driver is often excluded from the initial design process. The scholarship at the Form Finding Lab (Princeton University, USA) can be placed in a force-modelled tradition by pioneering novel numerical structural form generation approaches and unique structural performative forms. Three studies are presented that showcase the development of such techniques, which when craftfully manipulated, result in surprising shapes for structurally efficient footbridges, roofs and barriers.


ADRIAENSSENS, S. M., & BARNES, M. R. (2001). Tensegrity spline beam and grid shell structures. Engineering structures, 23(1), 29-36.

ADRIAENSSENS, S., BLOCK, P., VEENENDAAL, D., & WILLIAMS, C. (2014). Shell structures for architecture: form finding and optimization. London, England: Routledge.

ADRIAENSSENS, S., GABRIELE, S., MAGRONE, P., & VARANO, V. (2016). Revisiting the form finding techniques of Sergio Musmeci: the Bridge over the Basento River. 3rd International Conference on Structures and Architecture (ICSA) 2016, Guimares, Portugal (pp. 543-550).

BARNES, M. R., ADRIAENSSENS, S., & KRUPKA, M. (2013). A novel torsion/bending element for dynamic relaxation modeling. Computers & Structures, 119, 60-67.

HALPERN, A. B., & ADRIAENSSENS, S. (2014). Nonlinear elastic in-plane buckling of shallow truss arches. Journal of Bridge Engineering, 20(10), 04014117.

HALPERN, A. B., & ADRIAENSSENS, S. (2015). In-plane optimization of truss arch footbridges using stability and serviceability objective functions. Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization, 51(4), 971-985.

HOOKE, R. (1676). A description of Helioscopes and Some other Instruments Made by Robert Hooke (Vol. 65). London, England: J. Martyn.

MUSMECI, S. (1980). Struttura ed architettura. L’Industria Italiana del Cemento(10), 771-786.

NERVI, P. L. (1955). Costruire correttamente. Milan, Italy: Hoepli.

RICHARDSON, J. N., ADRIAENSSENS, S., COELHO, R. F., & BOUILLARD, P. (2013). Coupled form-finding and grid optimization approach for single layer grid shells. Engineering structures, 52, 230-239.

STREETER, M., RHODE-BARBARIGOS, L., & ADRIAENSSENS, S. (2015). Form finding and analysis of inflatable dams using dynamic relaxation. Applied Mathematics and Computation, 267, 742-749.

TYSMANS, T., ADRIAENSSENS, S., & WASTIELS, J. (2011). Form finding methodology for force-modelled anticlastic shells in glass fibre textile reinforced cement composites. Engineering Structures, 33(9), 2603-2611.
Cómo citar
ADRIAENSSENS, Sigrid. Form Matters. Materia Arquitectura, [S.l.], n. 13, p. 115-117, ago. 2016. ISSN 2735-7503. Disponible en: <>. Fecha de acceso: 21 mayo 2022
Dossier translations