Structural Stone Surfaces

Philippe Block

The Gothic Master Builders balanced stone to create their great cathedrals. By learning from their daring structural equilibrium, the BLOCK Research Group develops new tools to design expressive and efficient curved surface structures. This lecture will show how this rediscovered knowledge can be used to construct unique structures, with projects ranging from surprising unreinforced vaults in cut stone to appropriate construction projects in compressed soil in developing countries, but also novel construction methods for thin concrete shells using fabric formwork.

Philippe Block is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Technology in Architecture, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, where he directs the BLOCK Research Group, which focuses on equilibrium analysis of masonry vaults and computational form finding and fabrication of curved surface structures. He studied architecture and structural engineering at the VUB, Belgium and MIT, USA, and earned his PhD from MIT in 2009. As partner of Ochsendorf, DeJong & Block, LLC, he applies his research into practice on the structural assessment of historic monuments and the design and engineering of unique compression structures. He has won several awards for his research and work; has lectured at top universities, as well as leading engineering and architecture offices; and consulted for offices, such as Zaha Hadid Architects, Herzog & de Meuron and SOM, and Studio Olafur Eliasson. His work has been exhibited at the Design Triennial 2009 in NYC, USA and the Architecture Biennial 2012 in Venice, Italy.