Contemporary Architecture

Minimal Structures

Efficiency depends on the trinity of material, shape and the process of making. The lighter that constructions have to be, the more critical the balance between these three…… Beukers

Shaping forces originate in all natural spheres

  • in inanimate nature
  • in animate nature
  • in animal and human technology
  • in art
Examples of such natural forms are:
  • Basalt
  • Crystallization
  • Lead Sulphide
  • Clay
  • Berries
  • Radiolaria
  • Grasses
  • Coral
  • Termites
  • Spiders

Anticlastic Surfaces

The centers of curvature of the membrane are on opposite sides of the membrane e.g. hyperbolic parabaloid, torus

Synclastic Surfaces

The centers of curvature of the membrane are on the same side of the membrane.
e.g sphere or balloon

The Process of Making => Classes of Construction

  • Membranes
  • Nets
  • Pneumatics
  • Suspended
  • Arches, Vaults and Shells
  • Branched


The structural membrane acts also as the weathershield

Cable Nets

A separate grid of structural cables supports a non–structural weathershield


The tension force is created by an interior positive pressure and the membrane acts as the weathershield


These constructions are usually curved in one direction only and are stabilized by their own weight, by stiffening the surface or guying.

Arches, Vaults & Shells:

Arch and vault constructions use little material and small mass when the form is generated by the inverted catenary, or for shells, the inverted net.


These constructions are three dimensional supporting systems based on minimal path systems. They can be investigated with soap films between two parallel plates.

A simple paraboloid is defined by a minimum of four points w/ at least one out of plane.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Contemporary Architecture

Palazzetto dello Sport – Pieri Luigi Nervi

This research on Palazzetto dello Sport by Pieri Luigi Nervi was was done for a class presentation . I found it quite difficult to accumulate data on this building. The internet seems to have very little info on it. So here is a comprehensive study of the palazzatto dello Sport.

The study on this building was done before I actually reached Rome during my summer Internship. Believe it or not,  I actually saw this building quite accidentally. The thought of this being in Rome never occurred to me during my visit. I was on my way back to the railway station after visiting the MAXXI by Zaha Hadid when I actually came a cross this structural wonder.

Do go through the slideshow at the end for a good collection of images. You can also find some rare ones which i managed to scan from our Insti library books.

General Facts:
Location: Rome, Italy.
Building Type: Indoor Arena
Built for the 1960 Summer Olympics, it has a 3,500 seating capacity.
It hosted boxing among other sports during the Olympic Games.
Presently the Palazzetto dello Sport hosts the volley matches.

Key features:
Innovative Concrete Dome
Continuous ribbon windows
The elegantly ribbed, white-painted concrete ceiling.

Structural Design Innovation:

The principles of isostatic stress to minimize the material requirements of steel-reinforced, concrete, long-span structures.The pre-cast, vaulted ribs and fan-shaped, ribbed support columns of this 330 ft. dome follow the isostatic lines of principle stress, those in which theoretically no shear stress is induced, thus reducing the total use of concrete.
The ribbing of the dome and fans also provide a lateral loading system, by maximizing the cross-sectional area of the dome, accommodating for asymmetrical loading conditions.
Nervi’s plastic use of steel-reinforced concrete expressed the lines of principle stress with a marriage of aesthetics and engineering efficiency.By slowly deconstructing the Palazzo dello Sport, we may trace the primary force members (from the dome through its 48 fanned structural members and inclined support columns) as they transmit their load to the foundation along the tangent plane from the thrust of the dome, seating banks and peripheral gallery.
Note particularly the angular displacement of the primary columns as the resultant shifts to accommodate the thrust of the dome and gallery roof.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.