Geometry-based Structural Design

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This project had the objective to integrate the two former courses of Structural Design taught at the architectural department at the ETH Zurich. The project has been a collaboration between the chairs of Professor Block and Professor Schwartz.

Between 2009 and 2015, two separate courses on structural design were taught at the architecture department at the ETH Zurich. The first year (Structural Design I-II) was taught by Professor Block and the second year (Structural Design III-IV) by Professor Schwartz. Both chairs were teaching structures to architectural students with a focus on creative design rather than reproductive analysis, using graphical methods and physical models rather than formulas and equations. However, their approaches to graphical methods were based on different branches of Graphic Statics. This used to cause confusion among the students resulting in a loss of valuable teaching time. This confusion was reinforced by the use of different drawing conventions and nomenclature associated with the two approaches.
In order to resolve this situation, it was required to integrate both teaching courses for bringing together their curriculum, philosophies and teaching methods. For this, it was required to develop a unified approach to structural design and analysis based on graphical methods, develop an integrated curriculum, updating the teaching materials and implementing a new course in the online teaching platform eQUILIBRIUM.

The new integrated curriculum offers students a highly intuitive approach to understand and design structures; compared to most architecture departments throughout the world where students are typically taught a soft version of structural engineering. In addition, the new integrated curriculum makes a better use of the time, which has allowed covering more materials and in more detail.
The integration of structural design into the architectural design process is an important contribution to the education of architects at ETH Zurich. Based on the high quality of the students’ projects delivered in the design studios during the different courses, we could observe that the students have gained strong skills in structural design. Nowadays, the course is a leading reference in the world for teaching Structural Design to architectural students based on graphical methods.