The Bartlett School of Architecture


Philippe Block - Bartlett International Lecture Series

11 October 2017, 6:30 pm–7:30 pm

People walking under a domed structure

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The Bartlett School of Architecture


Christopher Ingold Auditorium, 20 Gordon Street, London, WC1H 0AJ

Beyond Bending 

Lecturer's Abstract 

"Throughout history, master builders have discovered expressive forms through the constraints of economy, efficiency and elegance. There is much to learn from the architectural and structural principles they developed.

Novel structural design tools that extend traditional graphical methods to three dimensions allow designers to discover a vast range of possible forms in compression. By better understanding the flow of compressive forces in three dimensions, excess steel can be eliminated, natural resources can be conserved, and humble materials like earth and stone can be reimagined.

By combining methods from the past with new technologies and fabrication techniques, this lecture advocates for the logic of compression-only forms. Drawing from a revival of forgotten principles combined with the latest advances in the design, engineering, fabrication and construction of compression-only shell structures, this lecture reveals the foundations upon which the award-winning ‘Beyond Bending’ exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016 was based."


Philippe Block is a professor at the Institute of Technology in Architecture, ETH Zürich, where he co-directs the Block Research Group (BRG) with Dr. Tom Van Mele. Professor Block is also director of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) in Digital Fabrication and a founding partner of Ochsendorf DeJong & Block (ODB Engineering). He studied architecture and structural engineering at the VUB, Belgium, and at MIT, USA, where he earned his PhD in 2009.

The BRG’s research focuses on equilibrium analysis, computational form finding, optimisation and construction of curved surface structures. Within the NCCR, the BRG develops structurally informed bespoke prefabrication strategies and novel construction paradigms for digital and robotic fabrication. 

View the full schedule for The Bartlett International Lecture Series