Dear all! One hyper exciting week ahead!

1- WEDNESDAY THE 19TH: A FANTASTIC CRIT in room 1.34. From 10:00am with the following guests, so please, speed up the 1/6 model production. The members of the panel will be the following:

  • Manijeh Verghese, AA Intermediate 11.
  • Alice Labourel.
  • Tim Lucas (Bartlett): Tim holds a Lectureship in Structural Design at the Bartlett School of Architecture and has taught at several other universities as a visiting critic and technical lecturer.
  • Marta Grinda, BINOM.
  • Barry Wark, BIOPHILE
  • Christopher Nicola.
  • Isabel Gutierrez.
  • Bob Sheil.


  • WHEN> WEDNESDAY THE 19TH, From 10:00am. 
  • WHERE> room 1.34.
  • WHAT>
  • A- 1/6 MODEL.
  • b- printed portfolio.
  • c- A4 containing BRIEF (program, site, community of users, brief procurement description…) and AGENDA (design hypothesis and main topics of the project).
  • d- upload to the blog> PDF and VIDEOS (if any), with the following name NOVEMBERCRIT+FullName
  • running order> by commenting to the post.

2- THURSDAY THE 20TH: presentation of the workshop TAKING TOYS SERIOUSLY, THE USE OF MODELS TO EXPLORE STRUCTURAL BEHAVIOUR, presented by Izaskun. 10:00am. We will inform you about the location as soon as we get one room assigned.

3- SATURDAY THE 22ND: first test description of TAKING TOYS SERIOUSLY, THE USE OF MODELS TO EXPLORE STRUCTURAL BEHAVIOUR, with Roberto Marín as super guest!

All the best! and enjoy like the Barbie Liberation Organization does.


Izaskun and Carlos

Posted in 2014-2015 | Tagged | 14 Comments


Dear all!

These days are being VERY intense in the amount of things we have to do before our field trip (organization and out of academics working life….) So in order to help our Costa Rican colleagues to have a clear idea of when are each of you arriving, could you be so kind to comment to this post saying day and hour of arrival to San José, and also day of departure?


arrival: SATURDAY 06DEC , 11:47 am

departure: DOM 21DEC, SAN JOSE CR  15:25am

Tomorrow, in a better hour, I´ll post the last information regarding the Trip and Workshop.


Posted in 2013-2014 | 4 Comments

ACTIVITIES OF THE WEEK, 24/28th of November (Updated 16:04)

Dear all!

Finally a week to concentrate in your work capitalizing all you have learnt throughout the term! (that Izaskun and I know has been A LOT!). So this week we won´t have any meeting apart from tutorials to the students we didn´t see during the structural workshop and Saturday presentation (Oliver & Josh). And a brief Thesis meeting with 5th years in preparation to our meeting on Thursday the 27th (14:30pm).

This is it:

1- Wednesday the 26th of November: 

  • Thesis meeting (in preparation of the 27th meeting), 10:30 to 11:15, in HR140 1.33. We would like to have a meeting with all 5th years to discuss about your thesis interest and help to make it more specific and relevant to your project (if possible). Please bring an A4 with the following:
  • 3 possible thesis titles.
  • brief description of the thesis ideas for the proposed titles.
  • possible benefits of the thesis research in your design.
  • possible Thesis tutors you have in mind, here is the list: 141114 d MArch Thesis Tutor Specialisms issue 2
  • Design tutorials with Josh and Oliver, 11:15 to 12:30 in HR140 1.33: both of you together?

2- Thursday the 27th of November, 14:30. THESIS MEETING. Room 140 or 141 in building 140 HR. 

3- Thursday the 27th of November, IZASKUN´S LECTURE: I´m waiting for the information to know if the lecture is public or not. So I´ll let you all know as soon as possible.

best! and rock (Indian style)!  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p005xjqc

Izaskun and Carlos

Posted in 2014-2015 | 2 Comments

REFERENCE, Lemon tree plantation in Sorrento, 1955

Little straw-roofs to protect the lemons from the rain, hail and winter cold….. SO SPECTACULAR!

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structural workshop!

Everyone's models

Everyone’s models

wheelbarrow test

wheelbarrow test

Posted in 2013-2014 | 1 Comment



The modern movement taught architects to design the structure first and constrain space to vacant volumes produce in the structure. Computers , energy, new materials and many other cultural factors have contributed to a bigger complexity.

Students that are able to think very complex spaces can sometime feel structure and building techniques constrain their design. When the technical knowledge is smaller than the spatial imagination structural awareness can act as a limit towards design.

Trying to explain basic principles about structure can sometime be boring and unchallenging. This workshop is design to use design skills to understand structural problems. This practice is design to allow students to understand structural phenomenon intuitively and experimentally. 

Most of the structural workshops for architects based in fabrication tried to isolate a single phenomenon.

In most of them the students start from scratch. Regular examples are producing a beam for an specific load with timber (winners are those supporting bigger loads with less weight) or with spaghetti. Pedagogic approach is, therefore, deductive.

Another classic workshop has been designing a shelter for an egg so that it prevents breaking when the egg is thrown from a big height. This workshop is closer to what we are going to do in the sense that the structural behaviour that can appear are not predetermined, but are difficult to relate with the students personal work and design.


Our workshop starts with existing objects with complex structural functioning. The methodology is, therefore, inductive.

DAY 1.

We propose the students to work with:





Each student will choose one object. The object selected by the students:

  1. Must be used as structural testing model for particular and complex element in the student design.

  2. Will most likely change its regular structural performance: tripods can be the model for a cantilever or can be combined making cones, umbrellas can form domes or canopies, bicycle wheels might be place horizontally and support perpendicular loads.

  3. Can have any particular scale relationship with the design of the student: might be understood as a one to one bit or as part of the one to six model or big element radically expanding the spam.

The relationship between the testing object and the student design must be established in a first diagrammatic drawing. The students will then analyse the consequences that the new performance is introducing in the objects. Students are invited to describe the likable failures of the structure through diagrams: would it blend before breaking?, which would be the weaker pieces?, how much deformation would it admit before collapsing?, which would be the load making the element break?. The hypothetical failures must be drawn carefully. Students need to be specific in their hypothesis. Useful suggestions for establishing the failure modes are:

+ look in the internet for descriptions of structural behaviours (tension, compression, buckling, bending moment, hyperstatism, isostasim).

+ look in the internet for classic ways of describing structural failure or structural performance: deformation diagrams, description of week points, loads itinerary, bending moment diagrams. Try to apply this description to your object and to the particular position it has acquired in your design.

+ try to be as specific as possible. It is better to be brave and bet that a tripod normally supporting 4kg will break if it is placed horizontally and supports 6 kg than not to be clear with your hypothesis.

DAY 2.

Once you have prevented possible failures of your structure design a reinforcement or include any additional elements of your design that, according with your hypothesis, will help structural performance or will prevent failure. The goal of the day is to produce a material reinforcement of the object so organize yourself not to loose more time than necessary in drawing.

Useful suggestions are:

+ look in the internet for structural strategies use to improve structural performance: redundancy, capacity design, combination of material with different stiffness, buckling belts or bracing are all possible examples.

+ it is important to build the reinforcement in one day. Meeting the deadline is compulsory. So before thinking in fabricating things or laser cutting every element think in the amazing amount of materials and elements you have around. Keep in mind we are paying attention to structural behaviour: elements with apparently different shapes might have a similar structural behaviour.

+ look to existing architecture trying to understand the structural roles of different elements.

+ beware and record the behaviour of your sample while you are working. Have always a camera with you and take picture of bending, deformation or unpredicted structural situations.

Design a text to prove the efficiency of your reinforcement. Most common structural test is adding loads. You have to find a rigid support, the possible loads and prevent security issues. Make sure you have a camera to record the test.

DAY 3.

The students must subject the reinforced object to the planned test. A structural consultant will then help her/him to understand structural phenomena, to describe it and to improve the structure with a new iteration and further suggestions. Structural consultant will help the student understand whether his/her initial hypothesis were right or wrong. Students presentations must be organized as performance. A good example can be the testing of Buckminster Fuller dome in Black Mountain College.


Structural analyse is one of the strong points of Unit 22 portfolios. All students are invited to describe the experience of the workshop with carefully drawn analytic diagrams. We invite the students to introduce the conclusion of the workshop in the portfolio under the tittle of ‘failure modes’. Which is the conceptual approach of these failure modes?:

+ The student won’t have to pretend he/she is able to calculate the complex structure she/he is dealing with but has prevent failure and possible reinforcement.

+ The student is not trying to convince the panel everything is totally solved but shows he/she understands structural behaviour and is able to prevent failure through design.

+ The portfolio gains in experimentalism and gives the proper intellectual value to failure.

+ Students are reinforced as they discover they can trust their structural intuition if they explore process in detail and pay real attention to what might not work.

+ Structure does not simplify complex design but can be strategically design to meet complexity.

Costa Rica workshops will continue with this exploration but will combined elements in more complex structures.

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STRUCTURAL WORKSHOP, ‘Toys that save millions’ – a history of using physical models in structural design

‘Toys that save millions’ – a
history of using physical
models in structural design by Bill Addis MA (Cantab), PhD
Consulting engineer

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