Structures by Design
Thinking, Making, Breaking
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*Winner of the 2021 TAA Textbook Excellence Award*
Honorable Mention of the 2021 BTES Book Award
Structures by Design: Thinking, Making, Breaking is a new type of structures textbook for architects who prefer to learn using the hands-on, creative problem-solving techniques typically found in a design studio. Instead of presenting structures as abstract concepts defined by formulas and diagrams, this book uses a project-based approach to demonstrate how a range of efficient, effective, and expressive architectural solutions can be generated, tested, and revised.
Each section of the book is focused on a particular manner by which structural resistance is provided: Form (Arches and Cables), Sections (Beams, Slabs, and Columns), Vectors (Trusses and Space Frames), Surfaces (Shells and Plates), and Frames (Connections and High-Rises).
The design exercises featured in each chapter use the Think, Make, Break method of reiterative design to develop and evaluate different structural options. A variety of structural design tools will be used, including the human body, physical models, historical precedents, static diagrams, traditional formulae, and advanced digital analysis.
The book can be incorporated into various course curricula and studio exercises because of the flexibility of the format and range of expertise required for these explorations. More than 500 original illustrations and photos provide example solutions and inspiration for further design exploration.
Table of Contents
Preface Starting with Structures
0.0 Introduction: The Case for Making & Breaking
Part 1 Learning to Think, Make, and Break
1.0 Body Structures: The Feel of Things
1.1 Seating Structures: Elemental Design Options
1.2 Building Structures: Effective, Efficient, and Expressive
Part 2 Resistance & Form
2.0 FORM: Structures of Compression and Tension
2.1 Compressive Arches: Past the Breaking Point
2.2 Suspended Structures: Designing for Tension
Part 3 Resistance & Section
3.0 SECTIONS: Beams, Slabs, and Columns
3.1 Stacking and Spanning Timber: Fundamental Framing and Analysis
3.2 Better Beams and Slabs: Formal Experiments in Efficiency
Part 4 Resistance & Vectors
4.0 VECTORS: Trusses and Triangulated Planar Assemblies
4.1 Planar and Spatial Trusses: Long Span Solutions
Part 5 Resistance & Surfaces
5.0 SURFACES: Structural Art, Utility, and Assemblies of Shells
5.1 Spanning Surfaces and Shapes: Vaults & Plates
Part 6 Resistance & Frames
6.0 FRAMES: Strategies for Stability
6.1 High-Rise Structures: Taller, Thinner, and Smarter
Spanning Tables, Charts, & Additional Examples
Rob Whitehead, AIA, LEED AP is an architect and Associate Professor of Architecture at Iowa State University where he teaches structural design, design-build, and integrated design studios. He was named one of 30 Most Admired Educators by Design Intelligence (2014). He received the Iowa Educator Award (2014) by the Iowa Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the Emerging Faculty Award (2011) by the Building Technology Educators’ Society (BTES). His structural design course was awarded the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Creative Achievement Award. He is the co-author of Design-Tech: Building Technology for Architects (2014) and currently serves as the Wells Concrete Construction Research Fellow.
"Structures by Design: Thinking, Making, Breaking is a robust introduction to architectural structures that emphasizes structural design as a creative activity and the understanding of structural concepts through active modeling. Drawing from his innovative teaching in architectural design studios, Rob Whitehead guides us through hands on exercises that develop the intuitive and analytical understandings that underlie structural design thinking. The text interweaves a typology of structural systems and a survey of classic and contemporary case studies with a fusion of conceptual design tools ranging from traditional graphic, analytical and physical models to computational analysis and a profoundly simple, yet powerfully impactful experience constructing models using our own bodies. Whitehead’s approach is unique in its premise that understanding modeling theory and the assumptions and limitations inherent in modeled systems is as important as the concepts the models are designed to teach."
Christine Theodoropoulos, AIA, PE, Dean, College of Environmental Design, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
"Structures by Design is an empowering text that provides straightforward techniques for structural design solutions using our own bodies as models. Engaging for both students and faculty, Rob Whitehead has written a timely contribution to the discourse of Integrated Design that surpasses abstract complexity for visualizing structures that are essential to the design process, and based in history. This is the structures text I needed when I was a student, and it’s one I’m pleased to have now.”
Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, E Fay Jones Distinguished Professor, Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design, University of Arkansas