ARC352/552: STRUCTURES I: Strength, Stiffness, Stability

Project for hangar for the US Air Force, Konrad Wachsmann, 1951.

Project for hangar for the US Air Force, Konrad Wachsmann, 1951. 

This course will serve as a theoretical, scientific, and intuitive foundation toward understanding the basic mechanical function of structures. Although this is a technically driven course, it will aim to establish a concise relationship between architectural form, space, and structure. The course content will be delivered through two distinct learning methods

Lecture: The Science of Structure
The lectures will investigate the mechanical behavior and load-bearing properties of structures based on the scientific principles of statics. Through a geometric rather than mathematical study, the course will provide an understanding of how to make an object remain static, the very word originating from the Greek word “staticos”, which means, “to make something stand still”. This is precisely the request we make of architecture and can be traced back to Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion (1642-1727) where he observed that a body will continue to move at a constant velocity, or be at rest, if no net force is acting on it.

Workshop: The Technology of Structure
The workshops will investigate the mechanical behavior of structures through technological aspects tied to the actual strength of materials. Technology deals with the “making” processes of how things are manufactured and how they are assembled into structural systems. Throughout antiquity, structures were erected with the time-honored method of trial-and-error. Like the Gothic Cathedral builders from the 12th century onward, we will employ craft-based traditions of available technology to didactically build and break simple structural elements such as wooden beams, columns, trusses, bridges, and frames. The intent of these physical pushing and pulling experiments will be to observe the deformations (i.e. elongation, shortening, flexing, twisting, wracking) that take place when a structural element carries load. 


Christopher Romano, assistant professor of architecture, explores the relationship between design, construction and the contemporary culture of building by leveraging regional manufacturing and material processes.