“How virtual becomes real” 2016

“How virtual becomes real” 2016

“How virtual becomes real” 2016

The 6th edition of “How virtual becomes real” continued the research into the applications of form-resistant structures. The virtual and the real were synthesised using both physical form-finding and numerical/digital technologies.

The studio began dedicating 4 weeks to numerical & experimental form-finding and fabrication exercises of exemplary case studies. Technology and construction issues of shell and gridshell structures were highlighted throughout the T&L activity. Below you can find a few pictures from the first classes, where the students were asked to find structural form for active-bending timber gridshells and pneumatic shells.


Photos and drawings by Alex Morse, Ben Forster and Yueling Yu

After experimenting with timber gridshells and pneumatic form-finding (see How Virtual Becomes Real 2015 for further info), the students learnt about fabrication techniques on outstanding case studies. Below a few pictures of the student’s drawings, tests and physical models.

Please note that the following exercises on fabrication techniques were meant to teach the students to develop a critical approach towards model making. They were also conceived to highlight potential similarities between model making and actual construction techniques, bearing in mind that a certain degree of speculation and discrepancy between the two things is inevitable. Having said that, understanding the shell/gridshell geometry (which was generally simplified for construction reasons) was the key for the students to produce a realistic result. Once the students got that, they could easily define an effective fabrication/model making method.

In week 5, the students had to choose one of Mies’ iconic projects from a shortlist of three (the Farnsworth House, the Crown Hall at the IIT, the new National Gallery in Berlin). Their task was to replace the ‘Miesian box’ with a shell or gridshell structure. They also needed to maintain the approximate building scale, and use the same brief and site, but other than that, they were completely free.

We felt there were at least 3 good reasons why there was great potential in a synthesis of the work of Mies and shells/gridshells:

1) the articulation and expression of structure in Mies’ work has clear parallels in the work that we made reference in Studio 20;

2) it is not coincidental that successful shell/gridshell projects tend to have a degree of ‘minimalism’ about them;

3) the ‘connection’ between the underside of the roof and the internal partitions can be a problematic one in shell and gridshell structures (Mies was certainly circumspect about this relationship and keen to privilege the reading of the overall architectural gesture).

Below you can find a selection of the final projects, together with the pictures of the final MSD Exhibition.


Project and models by Shenghang Xu (Hocci)


Project and models by Frances White


Project and models by Jian Tan


Models by Qusai Anteet


Presentation day (7 June 2016)


Projects and models by Kaihang Chen, on the left, and Alex Morse, on the right

Studio Leaders: Alberto Pugnale and Louis Gadd