The Nature of Tectonic Spatial Structures

Adrian Carter, Poul Henning Kirkegaard

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingArticle in proceedingResearchpeer-review


Since earliest times mankind has sought inspiration from nature for our built structures. However until the dawn of the modern era in architecture and design, the true structural character of a building was invariably full y or partially encased in an ornamented cladding, of often stylised motifs of nature. The modern emphasis on honest structural expression has resulted in more sincere and innovative interpretations of nature in spatial structures. With reference to the works of amongst others of Gaudi, Candela, Otto, Nervi, Utzon, Calatrava and Foreign Office Architects (FOA) and the writings particularly of Kenneth Frampton, this paper will argue that the direct inspiration of nature and the increasing use of advanced parametric digital design tools that replicate virtually instantaneously evolutionary processes results in structures that are not only elegant tectonically and in terms of economy of means, but also aesthetically pleasing, profoundly satisfying experientially and often culturally significant. Analysing most specifically the Sydney Opera House, as one of the most original, technically innovative and iconic spatial structures of the twentieth century, the paper will examine its influences and sources of inspiration, particularly from nature, as an explanation of its iconic status and basis for a paradigm for technically advanced and expressive tectonic spatial structures.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Proceedings of International Symposium of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) : Spatial Structures - temporary and permanent : Shanghai, China, November 8-12 2010
Number of pages10
Place of PublicationShanghai
PublisherChina Architecture & Building Press
Publication date2010
ISBN (Electronic)9787894751966
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventInternational Symposium of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures : IASS 2010 - Shanghai, China
Duration: 8 Nov 201012 Nov 2010


ConferenceInternational Symposium of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures : IASS 2010


  • Tectonic
  • Spatial Structures
  • Nature
  • Parametric Design


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