The nature of tectonic architecture and structural design

Adrian Carter, P. Henning-Kirkegaard, Roger Tyrrell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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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 fully 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 particularly to the exemplary nature inspired tectonic architecture of Jørn Utzon, together with comparisons to the works of amongst others; Gaudi, Candela, Frei Otto, Nervi, Calatrava and Foreign Office Architects 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 buildings of the twentieth century, the paper will examine its influences and sources of inspiration from nature combined with other sources, 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 publicationStructures and architecture: concepts, applications and challenges
EditorsP. Cruz
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9780415661959
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Architecture
  • Tectonics
  • Theory
  • Structure


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