Contemporary Architecture

Civil Engineering and Architecture

Engineering and Science:

Engineering (Technology) is:
  • the invention of things that did not previously exist
  • creation of specific objects
Science is:
  • the discovery of things that have long existed
  • creation of general theories that unify knowledge
To what extent does technological innovation flow from scientific discovery?
Designers of Three Dimensional Public Spaces
  • Architects
  • Structural Engineers
  • Sculptors
3 Measures of Design Performance:
  • Scientific Dimension.
  • Use of Minimal Natural Resources.
  • Form Controls the Forces.
  • Form Changes the Actions & Reactions.
  • Social Dimension.
  • Use of Minimal Public Resources.
  • Must Consider Material Costs & Constructibility.
  • Dependant upon Time & Place.
  • •Quantities are measurable but….labor & bidding process are not.
  • Symbolic Dimension.
  • Aesthetic Motivation of the Designer.
  • Aesthetic ideas can be traced back to the earliest forms of architecture.
  • Theories on the importance of structural expression and construction techniques.

Architect – the beginnings:

  • The architect of a structure was also supposed to be the engineer, combining knowledge of geometry and materials with artistic expression.
  • In medieval times this remained true, with the concept of the architect as the “master builder”.
  • Even in the Renaissance, the ideals of Science and Beauty went hand in hand and engineering was considered to be a part of art.

Architect – the master builder:

  • Imhotep
  • Ictinus & Callicrates
  • Vitruvius
  • Michelangelo
  • Da Vinci
  • Filippo Brunelleschi
  • Bernini
  • Palladio

Changes during the 19th century

  • Before 19th century, structural forces understood only in empirical terms (observation and experiment)
  • Late 18th century – exact knowledge began to replace guesswork
  • Late 19th century – science of statics – architecturally viable
  • Structural calculations intrinsic to the employment of iron skeletal construction

The Industrial Revolution

  • New methods of structural design created and put into practice by members of a new profession – civil engineers who were previously military engineers
  • Structural expertise removed from the domain of architects
  • Mid and late 19th century – spectacular advances made by civil engineers
Schism – the split:
  • Pre-schism architect was the “Master Builder”
  • Separation between architect, engineer and constructor

What lead to the schism:

Industrial Revolution introduced new materials, methods and aspirations
Specialized schools were established
  • Ecole de Beaux Arts & Ecole de Polytechnique
  • ETH, Zurich
Architectural curricula focused on:
  • visual methods
  • product
Engineering curricula focused on:
  • numeric methods
  • process

Civil Engineers – their contributions

  • John Augustus Roebling
  • Alexandre Gustave Eiffel
  • Pier Luigi Nervi
  • Robert Malliart

John Augustus Roebling (1806 – 1869):

  • Born in Prussia, he emigrated to the United States in 1831.
  • He graduated with a degree in civil engineering from the Royal Polytechnic Institute of Berlin in 1826.
  • In 1841, he invented the twisted wire-rope cable, an invention which foreshadowed the use of wire cable supports for the decks of suspension bridges.
  • As the cable could support long spans and extremely heavy loads, he quickly gained a reputation as a quality bridge engineer.
  • Roebling utilized steel cables in the construction of numerous suspension bridges and is generally considered one of the pioneers in the field of suspension-bridge construction.

Roebling’s Projects:

  • The Brooklyn Bridge, New York, 1869 – 1883.
  • The Niagara Rail Bridge, 1841 – 1855 .
  • The Cincinnati – Covington Bridge, 1856 – 1867.

The Brooklyn Bridge, New York, 1869 -1883:

  • Overall width: 85 feet
  • Total length: 5,989 feet
  • Length of approach: 971 feet (Brooklyn approach) & 1,562 feet, 6 inches (Manhattan approach)
  • Length of main span: 1,595 feet, 6 inches
  • Number of supporting cables: 4
  • Diameter of  each cable: 15 ½ inches
  • Ultimate strength of a cable: 11,200 tons
  • Weight of each cable: 3,272 tons

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (1832 – 1923)

  • He was born in Dijon France in 1832.
  • Later, he graduated from the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, Paris in 1855 and joined a Belgian firm which specialized in railway equipment.
  • He established an independent practice in 1864 after which he established a career as an engineer-contractor.
  • Eiffel was a master of elegantly constructed wrought-iron lattices.
  • The structures that Eiffel designed had great social, economical, and political impact on the world. These structures include the Eiffel Tower, the Panama Canal, and the Statue of Liberty.

Eiffel’s Projects:

  • The Statue of  Liberty, 1884.
  • The Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1889.
  • The Panama Canal, 1904 – 1914 .

The Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1889:

  • It was built for the Paris World’s Fair of 1889.
  • This metal skeletal structure of 15,000 metal parts has both rectilinear and curvilinear ornamentation in iron.
  • Eiffel designed it as a cross-braced latticed girder with minimum wind resistance.
  • Constructed from over 6300 metric tons of highest quality wrought iron, it is a masterpiece of wrought-iron technology.

 The Panama Canal, 1904 – 1914:

  • Panama Canal, canal across the Isthmus of Panama, in Central America, that allows vessels to travel between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
  • The waterway measures 64 km, including dredged approach channels at each end.
  • The canal’s 12 locks (3 sets of double locks at each end) have the same dimensions: 33.5 m (110 ft) wide by 305 m (1,000 ft) long.
  • The gates at each end are 2.1 m (7 ft) thick.

Pier Luigi Nervi (1891 – 1979)

  • He was born June 21, 1891, in the Italian Alps town of Sondrio, Italy.
  • Nervi studied in the Civic Engineering School at the University of Bologna and joined the army engineering corps following the entanglement of Italy in World War I.
  • After the war was over, he joined a group called “The Society for Concrete Construction” and later established his own firm in 1920.
  • It was not until after Nervi left the group in 1923 that his unique approach to building garnered critical attention.

A builder and designer of new forms

  • “..searching for solutions that were intrinsically and when constructed the most economic.”
  • Primarily an engineer and technician, not an architect
  • Strove primarily for “strength through form.”
  • Maintained that the strong aesthetic appeal of his buildings was simply a by-product of their structural correctness.
  • The ceiling are the most awe inspiring part of his structures, described in words like “sunburst” and “lacework” (or the more technical cantilevered roof trusses and lamella vault)
  • He combined technical expertise, intuition, pragmatism, and a material of his own invention- “ferro-cemento”- to achieve structural beauty in a tradition of Italian design.

Nervi’s Projects:


  •  Air Force Hangar I, 1936.
  • Salone Agnelli B, Turin, 1949.


  • Palazzetto dello Sport, Rome, 1959

 Palazzetto dello Sport, Rome, 1959:

  • The innovative dome is made of ribbed reinforced concrete.
  • Continuous windows circle around the arena under the dome.

Robert Maillart (1872 – 1940)

  • Robert Maillart, a Swiss engineer, was renowned for his inventive and beautiful reinforced-concrete bridges.
  • Maillart’s basic structural principles—integration of the supporting arch, the stiffening wall, and the traffic platform into one cohesive unit—were applied as early as 1901 in a bridge at Zuoz, Switzerland.
  • Robert Maillart had an intuition and genius that could entirely exploit the aesthetic of concrete.
  • He designed three-hinged arches in which the deck and the arch ribs were combined to produce closely integrated structures that evolved into stiffened arches of very thin reinforced concrete and concrete slabs.
  • These designs went beyond the common boundaries of concrete design in Maillart’s time.

  • Scientific Analysis
  • Visual Analysis
  • Empirical Analysis
Role of the Architect Today:
Owens Corning HQ, Toledo, Ohio.
  • CM & CBP team
  • exterior architect
  • interior architect
  • production drawing architect
  • curtain wall architect
  • engineering disciplines
  • construction manager

Role of the Engineer Today

  • technician vs. innovator
  • synthesis of scientific & empirical knowledge
Relationship – Engineering & Architecture

  • Pre-schism
  • Collaboration
  • Synthesis
  • a close working relationship between individuals from different backgrounds
  • mutual respect
  • common vocabulary

  • Can there be a modern day “master builder”?
    Nervi, Candela, Wright, Rogers, Calatrava
  • Can we transfer technologies and solutions from other disciplines?
    NASA – composites, ceramics, polymers
  • Can the synthetic process be a redefinition of the problem? 

    Traditional process

  • client, architect, builder
  • design – bid – buildOwens Corning Process
  • CM hires specialized disciplines
Synthetic process – a skillful coordination

  • Specialists and manufacturers are taking a bigger role in the process
  • Maki, Fujisawa, Gymnasium Roof
  • Foster, Hong Kong Shanghai Bank

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Contemporary Architecture

Impact of Industrial revolution on architecture

The Industrial Revolution, which began inEnglandabout 1760, led to radical changes at every level of civilization throughout the world. The growth of heavy industry brought a flood of new building materials—such as cast iron, steel, and glass—with which architects and engineers devised structures hitherto undreamed of in function, size, and form.

Disenchantment with baroque, with rococo, and even with neo-Palladianism turned late 18th-century designers and patrons toward the original Greek and Roman prototypes. Selective borrowing from another time and place became fashionable. Its Greek aspect was particularly strong in the young United States from the early years of the 19th century until about 1850. New settlements were given Greek names—Syracuse, Ithaca, Troy—and Doric and Ionic columns, entablatures, and pediments, mostly transmuted into white-painted wood, were applied to public buildings and important town houses in the style called Greek revival.

In France, the imperial cult of Napoleon steered architecture in a more Roman direction, as seen in the Church of the Madeleine (1807-1842), a huge Roman temple in Paris. French architectural thought had been jolted at the turn of the century by the highly imaginative published projects of Étienne-Louis Boullée and Claude Nicholas Ledoux. These men were inspired by the massive aspects of Egyptian and Roman work, but their monumental (and often impractical) compositions were innovative, and they are admired today as visionary architects.

The most original architect in England at the time was Sir John Soane; the museum he built as his ownLondonhouse (1812-1813) still excites astonishment for its inventive romantic virtuosity. Late English neoclassicism came to be seen as elitist; thus, for the new Houses of Parliament the authorities insisted on Gothic or Tudor Revival. The appointed architect, Sir Charles Barry, was not a Gothic expert, but he called into consultation an architect who was—A. W. N. Pugin, who became responsible for the details of this vast monument (begun 1836). Pugin, in a short and contentious career, made a moral issue out of a return to the Gothic style. Other architects, however, felt free to select whatever elements from past cultures best fitted their programs—Gothic for Protestant churches, baroque for Roman Catholic churches, early Greek for banks, Palladian for institutions, early Renaissance for libraries, and Egyptian for cemeteries.

In the second half of the 19th century dislocations brought about by the Industrial Revolution became overwhelming. Many were shocked by the hideous new urban districts of factories and workers’ housing and by the deterioration of public taste among the newly rich. For the new modes of transportation, canals, tunnels, bridges, and railroad stations, architects were employed only to provide a cultural veneer.

The Crystal Palace (1850-1851; reconstructed 1852-1854) in London, a vast but ephemeral exhibition hall, was the work of Sir Joseph Paxton, a man who had learned how to put iron and glass together in the design of large greenhouses. It demonstrated a hitherto undreamed-of kind of spatial beauty, and in its carefully planned building process, which included prefabricated standard parts, it foreshadowed industrialized building and the widespread use of cast iron and steel.

Also important in its innovative use of metal was the great tower (1887-1889) of Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel in Paris. In general, however, the most gifted architects of the time sought escape from their increasingly industrialized environment by further development of traditional themes and eclectic styles. Two contrasting but equally brilliantly conceived examples are the sumptuous Paris Opera (1861-1875) by Charles Garnier and Boston’s grandiose Trinity Church (1872-1877) by Henry Hobson Richardson .

Taxes against glass, windows and bricks were repealed which saw a new interest in using these building materials. Factory made plate glass was developed and complex designs in iron grillwork were a popular decoration for the classical and Gothic buildings. There were also terracotta manufacturing improvements, which allowed for more of its use in construction. Steel skeletons were covered with masonry and large glass skylights were popular.

Improvements to the iron making process encouraged the building of bridges and other structures. Large indoor open spaces were now made possible with the use of strong iron framed construction; this was ideal for factories, museums and train stations. The Eiffel Tower, built for the 1889 Exhibition in Paris was a dramatic demonstration by the French of their mastery of this new construction technology. “To the architect-engineer belongs a new decorative art, such as ornamental bolts, iron corners extending beyond the main line, a sort of Gothic lacework of iron. We find that to some extent in the Eiffel Tower.”

But it was heavily criticized by some architects and artists who scorned it as an example of the “blackness of industry” and saw it as blight on the city’s skyline.

The Crystal Palace created to enclose the Great Exhibition of 1851 inEnglandwas a glass and iron showpiece, which dazzled the millions of visitors who passed through its doors. Built by Joseph Paxton within six months, its design mimicked the greenhouses that were his customary stock in trade. It was spacious enough to enclose mature existing trees within its walls.

There was some rejection of the new Industrial Revolution architecture and it’s emphasis on classical construction, Palladian styles and Victorian “gingerbread” houses; some impressive Gothic revival architecture was commissioned instead. Notable examples were the British Parliament Buildings with their pointed spires and suggestion of strength and moral values. “Strawberry Hill”, built after the mid-eighteenth century, seems patterned after a Gothic castle and though it combined some novel construction materials which reflected strong spiritual and religious sentiments in its design.

Regarding architecture of this era, John Ruskin, a co-founder of the Arts and Crafts movement toward simplicity argued, “You should not connect the delight which you take in ornament with that which you take in construction or in usefulness. They have no connection, and every effort that you make to reason from one to the other will blunt your sense of beauty…. Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance.”

Contemporary Architecture

BERNARD TSCHUMI – Parc de La Villette

A brief biography:

  • Bernard Tschumi is an architect and educator born in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1944.
  • He spent half of his childhood in Lausanne, Switzerland and half in Paris, France due to the fact that his mother was French and his father was Swiss.
  • His father studied architecture in Paris, and at the end of World War II he set up the School of Architecture of the Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne.
  • Presently, a permanent United States resident who holds both French and Swiss nationalities, Tschumi studied in Paris and at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, from which he received his degree in 1969.
  • From 1970 to 1979 he taught at the Architectural Association in London.
  • He also taught at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies at New York in 1976 and at Princeton University in 1976 and 1980.
  • From 1981 to 1983 he was visiting professor at the Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York.
  • He has been Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University in New York from 1988 to 2003.
  • ‘Form follows fiction’ is one example of Bernard Tschumi’s rules of architectonic notation that have made him an internationally influential theorist.
  • He has applied his theories to the problems of cultural and educational institutions, with his approach evident in his successful proposal for the project that catapulted him to prominence, the Parc de la Villette, Paris in 1998.

Awards and Honours:

Tschumi has garnered numerous awards, among them are:

  • the Legion d’Honneur (1986)
  • the Ordre des Arts et Lettres (1998)
  • the French Grand Prix National d’Architecture (1996)
  • the British Royal Victoria Medal (1994)
  • The American Architecture Award (1999).

Advertisements for Architecture, 1976 – 77:

“There is no way to perform architecture in a book. Words and drawings can only produce paper space, not the experience of real space. By definition, paper space is imaginary: it is an image.”

  • Several of Tschumi’s early theoretical texts were illustrated with Advertisements for Architecture, a series of postcard-sized juxtapositions of words and images.
  • Each was a manifesto of sorts, dealing with the dissociation between the immediacy of spatial experience and the analytical definition of theoretical concepts.
  • The function of the Advertisements -reproduced again and again, as opposed to the single architectural piece – was to trigger the desire for something beyond the page itself.
  • When removed from their customary endorsement of commodity values, advertisements are the ultimate magazine form, even if used ironically.
  • The logic presumes that since there are advertisements for architectural products, why not advertisements for the production (and reproduction) of architecture.

Screenplays, 1978:

“The Screenplays are investigations of concepts as well as techniques, proposing simple hypotheses and then testing them out. They explore the relation between events (“the program”) and architectural spaces, on one hand, and transformational devices of a sequential nature, on the other.”

  • The use of film images in these works originated in Tschumi’s interest in sequences and programmatic concerns. (“There is no architecture without action, no architecture without event, no architecture without program.”) Rather than composing fictional events or sequences, it seemed more informative to act upon existing ones.
  • The cinema thus was an obvious source. At the same time, the rich formal and narrative inventions of the only genuine 20th-century art inevitably encouraged parallels with current architectural thought. Flashbacks, crosscutting, jumpcuts, dissolves and other editing devices provided a rich set of analogies to the time and space nature of architecture.
  • Yet the concerns of the Screenplays were essentially architectural. They dealt with issues of:
    • material (generators of form: reality, abstraction, movement, events, etc.)
    • device (disjunction, distortion, repetition, and superimposition)
    • counterpoint (between movement and space, events and spaces, etc.)
    • The Screenplays aimed at developing a contemporary set of architectural tools.

The Manhattan Transcripts, 1976 – 81:

“Architecture is not simply about space and form, but also about event, action, and what happens in space.”

  • The Manhattan Transcripts differ from most architectural drawings insofar as they are neither real projects nor mere fantasies.
  • Developed in the late 1970s, they proposed to transcribe an architectural interpretation of reality. To this aim, they employed a particular structure involving photographs that either directed or witnessed events (some would call them “functions” others “programs”).
  • At the same time, plans, sections, and diagrams outlined spaces and indicated the movements of the different protagonists intruding into the architectural “stage set”.
  • The Transcripts explicit purpose was to transcribe things normally removed from conventional architectural representation, namely the complex relationship between spaces and their use, between the set and the script, between “type” and “program”, between objects and events.
  • The dominant theme of the Transcripts is a set of disjunctions among use, form, and social values, the non-coincidence between meaning and being, movement and space, man and object was the starting condition of the work.
  • Yet the inevitable confrontation of these terms produced effects of far ranging consequence.
  • The Transcripts tried to offer a different reading of architecture in which space, movement and events were independent, yet stood in a new relation to one another, so that the conventional components of architecture were broken down and rebuilt along different axes.

Parc de La Villette, Paris, 1982 – 97:

  • The competition for the Parc de la Villette was organized by the French Government in 1982 as a part of  Les Grands Projets de L’Etat à Pariscommissioned by President Francois Mitterand.
  • Its objectives were both to mark the vision of an era and to act upon the future economic and cultural development of a key area in Paris.
  • Tschumi wanted to test his ideas in competitions with other architects, and he entered the competition for the design of the Parc de le Villette against 470 other designers. Up to this point, he believed his architecture would be purely theoretical. However, he surprised himself and won the competition, the first he ever entered.
  • Despite its name, the park as designated in the competition was not to be a simple landscape replica. On the contrary, the brief for this “Urban Park for the 21st Century” developed a complex program of cultural and entertainment facilities, encompassing, open-air theatres, restaurants and cafes, art galleries, music and video workshops, playgrounds and computer displays, as well as the obligatory gardens where cultural invention, rather than natural recreation was encouraged.
  • The object of the competition was to select a chief architect who would oversee the master plan and build the “structuring elements” of the park. Artists, landscape designers, and other architects were to contribute a variety of gardens or buildings for the project.

History of the site:

  • First, it was the former site of a slaughter house that employed more than 3,000 people.
  • Second, two canals run through the site. The Ourcq canal supplied water to the city of Paris and the St. Denis canal was used to transport cargo and freight.

Design Requirements :

  • Parc de la Villette’s design is the opposite of the 19th century “park in the city” that Frederick Law Olmstead championed, because the residents of a modern 21st century city are different from their 19th century counterparts, their parks should also be different.
  • The idea of a city park as a naturalistic representation in the heart of the city does not necessarily satisfy the various needs of current city dwellers.
  • Parisian city parks no longer serve as communal areas. Instead, they are used mostly by children and the elderly, and function as the meeting place the town square once provided.
  • Paris is no longer organized around a traditional center but spreads out into the suburbs, causing the central focus to be diffused.

Our starting point is ideas or concepts, and the ways in which concepts relate to other disciplines and to different modes of thought. Architecture is not knowledge of form, but rather a form of knowledge. In other words, whenever we start to do something as architects we need to ask ourselves what architecture is. Architecture is not a pre-given thing. We architects always think that we define spaces by using walls, but “to define” also means to provide a definition or meaning. As architects, we need to constantly define and redefine what architecture is.

About the building:

  • The park is located on one of the last remaining large sites in Paris, a 125 acre expanse situated in the north-east corner of the city, between the Metro stations Porte de Pantin and Porte de la Villette.
  • Over 1 kilometer long in one direction and 700 meters wide in the other La Villette appears as a multiple programmatic field, containing in addition to the park, the large Museum of Science and Industry, a City of Music, a Grande Halle for exhibitions and a rock concert hall.
  • The park scheme was selected over 471 other entries in a two-stage competition and built over a period of almost fifteen years.


  • The basis of the design is the superimposition of three independent systems, namely:
    • Points
    • Lines
    • Surfaces

1. Points

  • The folies are placed according to a point-grid coordinate system at 120 meter intervals throughout the park. The form of each is a basic 10 x 10 x 10 meter cube or three-story construction of neutral space that can be transformed and elaborated according to specific programmatic needs. Taken as a whole, the folies provide a common denominator for all of the events generated by the park program.
  • The repetition of folies is aimed at developing a clear symbol for the park, a recognizable identity as strong as the British public telephone booth or the Paris Metro gates.
  • Their grid provides a comprehensive image or shape for the otherwise ill-defined terrain. Similarly, the regularity of routes and positions makes orientation simple for those unfamiliar with the area. An advantage of the point-grid system is that it provides for the minimum adequate equipment of the urban park relative to the number of its visitors.

2. Lines

  • The folie grid is related to a larger coordinate structure, an orthogonal system of high-density pedestrian movement that marks the site with a cross.
  • The North-South passage or Coordinate links the two Paris gates and subway stations of Porte de la Villette and Porte de Pantin, the East-West Coordinate joins Paris to its western suburbs.
  • A 5 meter wide, open, waved covered structure runs the length of both Coordinates.
  • Also, organised along the Coordinates so as to facilitate and encourage access are folies designated for the most frequented locations and activities, including the City of Music, cafes and restaurants, children’s playgrounds, the first aid center, and music performances.

3. Surfaces

  • The park surfaces receive all activities requiring large expanses of horizontal space for play, sports and exercise, mass-entertainment, markets and so forth.
  • During summer nights, for example, the central green becomes an open air film theater for 3,000 viewers. The so called left over surfaces where all aspects of the program have been fulfilled, are composed of compacted earth and gravel.

“To achieve architecture without resorting to design is an ambition often in the minds of those who go through the unbelievable effort of putting together buildings.”

“Architecture is not about creating a static envelope. In other words, the building is always about movement in space.”

In many ways I prefer the images of Lerner with people because they show what the building is for.

One day, a dance company decided to use the building for a performance. People were sitting outside the building and looking into the spectacle on the ramps. They had understood the building.

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Contemporary Architecture

Renzo Piano , Richard Rogers – Centre Georges Pompidou

Technology cannot be an end in itself but must aim at solving long term social and ecological problems.“

— Richard Rogers

The team’s architectural intention:

  • Building on the lines of an “evolving spatial diagram”.
  • Large degree of flexibility.
  • Facades that would be “information surfaces.“
  • To maximise spatial movement and flow

Design Phase:

  • A 3-level infrastructure housing the technical facilities and service areas,
  • A vast 7-level glass and steel superstructure, including a terrace and mezzanine floor

The style

  • revealed structure
  • exposed ducts
  • machine-precision aesthetics

Greater care given on how they work.


  • Exposed first Time
    • Blue – Air
    • Green – Fluids
    • Yellow – Electricity cables
    • Red – Movement and flow (elevators) and Safety (fire extinguishers).

Movement and flow:

  • Maximise functional movement and flow
  • Inside out.–Free from circulation and servicing
  • Attractive differences rather than soft-edged harmony.
  • The building portrays its own datum .
  • This public display of components—steel skeleton and diagonal
  • bracing as outcome of  interior  requirement.
  • Unobstructed and adaptable interior volumes

The exterior zone of the structural frame is there to provide tension forces outside the main volume’s external columns, pulling the cantilevered horizontal members downward to reduce the bending forces on the floor span.– eliminates the need for supporting columns across the interior span of 157 feet (53.3 meters) mechanical and air-conditioning services are then placed in the exoskeletal frame

Inside Pompidou :

  • Public access to the museum areas is not from the escalator tubes, as the building exterior seems to suggest, but from doors located centrally at the lower edge of the plaza
  • Double-height interior forum connects the street level with the plaza level in a single volume .
  • Plaza-level reception area also looks down into a performance-level basement where a theater and meeting rooms are situated.
  • An interior escalator takes visitors to the street level on the northwest corner of the building
  • Small lobby connects to elevators and the exterior escalator.– visitors can already look down 46 feet– In reality, the escalator serves only the mezzanine, level four, and level six–
  • Horizontal circulation platforms occur inside the frame — most of them restricted to staff access and emergency exits.

Critical Structural Issues – Achieving column free space

In plan, the superstructure of the building consists of three zones.

  • The middle zone contains the 157-foot clear span across the building interior between the main columns.
  • The outside two zones make up structural wall frames to support and cantilever.

Outer tension in the wall frame act to reduce the bending moments on the center of the span

As a Building:

  • Structural exhibitionism
  • A symbol of process and technology
  • Turning the building inside out was the most successfully realized architectural intention.
  • Static monumentalism is out; dynamic servicing and flexible floor space is in.
  • A ceiling isn’t required to shape a space, as many urban spaces. Our vision is more oriented to the horizontal than to the vertical.

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Contemporary Architecture

The Louvre Pyramid-I. M. Pie

Paris, a paradise for architectural students. One of those cities in Europe where the medieval and modern styles stand side by side in complete harmony. Since I’m more of a contemporary guy as far as architecture is concerned, one of the buildings that caught my attention or rather the one I really wished to see was the Glass pyramids in front of the Louvre Museum. Luckily my visit to Paris was on the First weekend of the month. Which meant I could see the world-famous Louvre Museum absolutely free of charge!! In front of the Louvre museum stands the famous or rather controversial glass pyramids by the great Chinese architect I.M. Pie. To catch the greatest views of the glass structure you will have to wait till the lights around it are switched on.

It was rather cloudy when I reached there on Saturday but the sun was back on the next day. So the snaps are going to be of mixed lighting. Well before I actually saw the bigger pyramid, I saw the small inverted one in side the shopping mall. Scenes of Da Vinci Code came on as flash back as I stood beside the glass paneled pyramids.

So here is the slide show followed by the description. Once again courtesy Wiki for the info.

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General Info:

The Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre) is a large glass and metal pyramid, surrounded by three smaller pyramids, in the main courtyard (Cour Napoleon) of the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) in Paris. The large pyramid serves as the main entrance to the Louvre Museum. Completed in 1989, it has become a landmark of the city of Paris.

Design and Construction:

Commissioned by the President of France François Mitterrand in 1984, it was designed by the architect I. M. Pei, who is responsible for the design of the Miho Museum in Japan among others. The structure, which was constructed entirely with glass segments, reaches a height of 20.6 metres (about 70 feet); its square base has sides of 35 metres (115 ft). It consists of 603 rhombus-shaped and 70 triangular glass segments.[2]

The pyramid structure was engineered by Nicolet Chartrand Knoll Ltd. of Montreal (Pyramid structure / Design Consultant) and Rice Francis Ritchie (also known as RFR) of Paris (Pyramid Structure / Construction Phase).

The pyramid and the underground lobby beneath it were created because of a series of problems with the Louvre’s original main entrance, which could no longer handle an enormous number of visitors on an everyday basis. Visitors entering through the pyramid descend into the spacious lobby then re-ascend into the main Louvre buildings. Several other museums have duplicated this concept, most notably the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The construction work on the pyramid base and underground lobby was carried out by the Vinci construction company.

General Info on the La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid) is a skylight constructed in an underground shopping mall in front of the Louvre Museum in France. It may be thought of as a smaller sibling of the more famous Louvre Pyramid proper, yet turned upside down: its upturned base is easily overlooked from outside.


he pyramid marks the intersection of two main walkways and orients visitors towards the museum entrance. Tensioned against a 30-ton, 13.3-meter square steel caisson frame, the inverted pyramidal shape in laminated glass points downward towards the floor. The tip of the pyramid is suspended 1.4 meters (a little more than 4.5 feet) above floor level. Individual glass panes in the pyramid, 30 mm thick, are connected by stainless-steel crosses 381 mm in length. After dark, the structure is illuminated by a frieze of spotlights.

Directly below the tip of the downwards-pointing glass pyramid, a small stone pyramid (about one meter/three feet high) is stationed on the floor, as if mirroring the larger structure above: The tips of the two pyramids almost touch.

La Pyramide Inversée was designed by architects Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners, and installed as part of the Phase II government renovation of the Louvre Museum. It was completed in 1993. In 1995, it was a finalist in the Benedictus Awards, described by the jury as “a remarkable anti-structure … a symbolic use of technology … a piece of sculpture. It was meant as an object but it is an object to transmit light.”