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

Zaha Hadid – MAXXI, Rome


Birth: ZAHA HADID was born in Bagdad (1950).


  • Trained Maths at the American university of Beirut (1968 – 1971)
    studied architecture at the architectural association school (AA)
    in London, UK (1972 – 1977)
  • Hadid’s elementary education in England and Switzerland exposed her to many different cultures.
  • She attended school with Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Islamic girls.
  • This is the first indication of marginality in her life. She felt distanced from her Muslim heritage at the school because of its Christian educational style.
  • This dissension between Arab and Western influences reoccurred as she developed her architectural style.
  • Hadid first became interested in architecture at age eleven, although she pursued other interests before attending architecture school.
  • A friend of the family was designing a home for Hadid’s aunt and would bring the models by and show Zaha.
  • Her mother and father increased her interest by taking her to architectural exhibitions.
  • Before pursuing higher education in architecture, Hadid studied mathematics at the American University in Beirut in 1968.
  • The field of modern mathematics and the relationship between philosophy, physics and math interested her briefly before studied architecture. (Hadid 1995)


Joined OMA (office of metropolitan architecture) and became a partner (1977).Own practice ‘ZAHA HADID office’ (from 1980).


  • Zaha Hadid was raised in a liberal, open-minded family which allowed her to explore new ways of doing things and think critically.
  • She was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950 to aristocratic parents. Hadid’s father played an important role in her creative development.
  • He exposed her to many different cultures while always stressing the importance of her heritage.
  • He demonstrated this through his studies at the London School of Economics and participation in the fight for Iraqi independence from foreign occupation.
  • His progressive views on the industrialization of Iraq, housing issues, and the nationalization of the oil production influenced Zaha in her views of the world.
  • Hadid’s childhood experiences encouraged a belief in open communication between different groups of people, but also a strong conviction in Iraqi independence.




  • MAXXI stands for ‘Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo’ (National Museum of 21st Century Art).
  • The museum will become the joint home of the MAXXI Arts and MAXXI Architecture and Italy’s first national museum solely dedicated to contemporary arts.
  • Zaha Hadid architects, out of 273 candidates, won the architectural competition to design the building in 1998 with a design that responds to the form and arrangement of existing industrial buildings on the site. The program offers a flexible, interdisciplinary arena for the exhibition of contemporary art and architecture and for live events.
  • It acts as a tie between the geometrical elements already present
  • It is built on the site of old army barracks between the river
    tiber and via guido reni, the centre is made up of spaces that
    flow freely and unexpectedly between interior and exterior, where walls twist to become floors or ceilings.
  • The building absorbs the landscape structures, dynamizes them and gives them back to the urban environment.
  • Hadid’s architecture can thus be understood as an intensification of the surrounding space.
    ‘a scene for thought, with art as a player on the cene’ says hadid.
  • —Zaha Hadid stated: “I see the MAXXI as an immersive urban environment for the exchange of ideas, feeding the cultural vitality of the city. It’s no longer just a museum, but an urban cultural centre where a dense texture of interior and exterior spaces have been intertwined and superimposed over one another. It’s an intriguing mixture of galleries, irrigating a large urban field with linear display surfaces”.

The architecture of MAXXI:

Two principle architectural elements characterize the project:

  • —the concrete walls that define the exhibition galleries and determine the interweaving of volumes;
  • —and the transparent roof that modulates natural light. The roofing system complies with the highest standards required for museums and is composed of integrated frames and louvers with devices for filtering sunlight, artificial light and environmental control.

Galleries, Walkway and Materials:

  • Located around a large full height space which gives access to the galleries dedicated to permanent collections and temporary exhibitions, the auditorium, reception services, cafeteria and bookshop.
  • Outside, a pedestrian walkway follows the outline of the building, restoring an urban link that has been blocked for almost a century by the former military barracks in Rome.
  • Materials such as glass (roof), steel (stairs) and cement (walls) give the exhibition spaces a neutral appearance, whilst mobile panels enable curatorial flexibility and variety.

Sinuous shape:

—The fluid and sinuous shapes, the variety and interweaving of spaces and the modulated use of natural light lead to a spatial and functional framework of great complexity, offering constantly changing and unexpected views from within the building and outdoor spaces.


  • Total site area: 29,000 m2
  • Exterior spaces: 19,640 m2
  • Interior spaces: 21,200 m2
  • Display space: 10.000 m2
  • Services (auditorium, library-video library, cafeteria, restaurant, etc.): 6,000 m2
  • MAXXI Arts: 4.077 m2
  • MAXXI Architecture: 1,935 m2
  • Total volume: 113,000 m3
  • Maximum height: 22.90 m
  • Demolitions of existing structures: 100,000 m3
  • Structural steel: 6,000,000 kg
  • Steel roof trusses: 700,000 kg
  • Site poured structural concrete: 50,000 m3
  • Formwork area: 40,000 m2 of which 20,000 m2 exposed
  • Area of glass skylights: 2,600 m2
  • Number of people employed by the MAXXI: an average of 100 people per day (technicians and labourers) for 1,500 days
  • Hours of construction time: 1,250,000
  • Project cost: 150 million Euro
  • Visitor forecast: between 200 and 400 thousand per year.

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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.

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Contemporary Architecture

The Ara Pacis Museum – Richard Meier

Once again we are in the city of  Rome. A city which can be undoubtedly called the capital of the ancient world. Like before I will be discussing a contemporary museum from this city, the Ara Pacis museum or Museo dell’Ara Pacis by Richard Meier. The New york five architect came with a similar white puristic architecture form for the museum too. This is in fact said to be the first modern building in Rome after 1930! Well there is a lot of controversy behind this project and it seems the whole landscape is going to change in order to give the Ara Pacis the due respect it deserves.So have a look at the snaps I had managed and also a little info on the building. (Thank you arcspace for the info on this project)

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Richard Meier & Partners
Ara Pacis Museum
Rome, ItalyThe Ara Pacis Museum, located along the Tiber River, near the Ponte Cavour, on the western edge of the Piazza Augusto Imperatore, is an integral part of the urban context of the Augustean Area.
The clarity of the volumes and the building’s proportions relate in scale to Rome’s ancient structures.

The Museum is designed to house the ancient relic, the Ara Pacis Augustae, a sacrificial altar dating to 9 B.C., originally housed in a building designed by Vittorio Ballio Morpurgo in 1938.
The only surviving part of the Morpurgo structure is a low travertine wall that Mussolini had engraved with the “Res Gestae” (the Acts of the Divine Augustus).
The new design by Richard Meier protects and enhances the relic.

Building materials include glass and concrete and an indigenous fine beige Roman travertine.
The predominant feature is a13.5 meters high and 50 meters long glass curtain wall.

The 8.5 meter high Entry Hall, defined by four slender columns in reinforced concrete, finished with white waxed marble plaster, leads to the Main Hall which houses the Ara Pacis.

The entrance space with its subdued lighting, in contrast to the expansive top-lighting in the Great Hall, encourages a natural progression and circulation. Skylights were used to obtain the most natural lighting and to eliminate “false shadows”.

Although housing and protecting the ancient altar was the main focus of this museum, the building also provides 700 square meters space for temporary exhibitions and installations dedicated to archaeological themes, as well as a digital library of Augustan culture with state-of-the-art technology.

An outdoor roof terrace above the auditorium is an essential part of the circulation of the museum. It includes a contiguous bar and café with views over the Mausoleum of Augustus to the east and the Tiber River to the west.

The Ara Pacis Museum is the first work of modern architecture in the Historic Center of Rome since the 1930’s.
The altar, which has not been moved from its original location, has been protected during construction and will be unveiled for the first time in six years on 22 September, 2005 on the occasion of the Emperor Augustus’s birthday.
It will be recovered with a more transparent protective cover for the duration of construction.

The inauguration is planned for the Birthday of Rome on April 21, 2006.Total Floor Area: 4,250 square meters

Contemporary Architecture

MAXXI – Zaha Hadid architects

The first few posts would be dedicated to some of the contemporary architecture I came across during my summer Internship in Torino , Italy.I had managed to cover three European nations, Italy, France and Switzerland.

During my visit to Rome , a city more famous for the ancient architectural wonders like the Colosseum and pantheon, I came across this truly contemporary museum by Zaha Hadid. Zaha Hadid’s works were always fascinating to watch because of the surprising form it had to offer. Since it was the first work of Zaha Hadid  I came across in real life, it added to the enthusiasm. In a city of Ancient architecture her building has managed to create an identity of its own. That clearly shows her skill. Structural and Aesthetics like this draws me more into the field of architecture

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General Info:

The MAXXI – National Museum of the 21st Century Arts is a national museum dedicated to contemporary creativity, located in the Flaminio neighbourhood of Rome, Italy. It is managed by a foundation created by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. It was designed as a multidisciplinary space by Zaha Hadid and committed to experimentation and innovation in the arts and architecture.

The building is a composition of bending oblong tubes, overlapping, intersecting and piling over each other, resembling a piece of massive transport infrastructure.

The MAXXI consists of two museums: “MAXXI art” and “MAXXI architecture”. In addition to the two museums, the MAXXI also features an auditorium, a library and media library specialized in art and architecture, a bookshop, a cafeteria, a bar/restaurant, galleries for temporary exhibition, performances, educational activities. The large public square designed in front of the museum is planned to host art works and live events.

The MAXXI has been acclaimed by The Guardian as “Hadid’s finest built work to date”[1] and a masterpiece fit to sit alongside Rome’s ancient wonders.