Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session
Labs: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session.

Course Overview

This is the second course addressing architectural structures in the graduate architecture program. The subject matter will progress from the material presented in 4.462 by investigating the design and analysis of structural systems through load tracing, holistic structural behavior, the properties and design potentials of various materials, and the relationship between the superstructure and the exterior envelope.

A particular emphasis will be the relationship between two primary building systems; the superstructure and the exterior envelope. In addition, the course will examine the processes necessary for the assembly of these two systems through an examination of the performance requirements for each and the design potential inherent in their components. The focus will be on a solid understanding of the techniques employed in the specification and design of elements that serve each system, as well as a working knowledge of the factors that influence the configuration of those elements and the resulting morphologies. An appreciation of the technical complexity involved should lead to the development of a high level of competence to be employed in the search for opportunities to integrate the two systems. It is in this integrative mode that the relationship between the analytical methods of building technologies and the synthetic process of architectural design may lead to a deeper creative design process.

The semester is organized into 5 periods of three weeks each; two periods of structural lectures (S1 and S3) and two periods dedicated to the exterior envelope and advanced construction methods (C2 and C4). The final three weeks (Integration) will be devoted to the design and documentation of a final project that aims to put into practice opportunities of integration between these two systems. This final project will be derived of a design moment resulting from the Level II studio project.

Assignments will be a combination of problem sets, smaller projects (in class and otherwise), participation and readings as well as the formulation and development of the final project. There will be close coordination with the Level II studios.


“The resistant virtues of the structures that we make depend on their form; it is through their form that they are stable and not because of an awkward accumulation of materials. There is nothing more noble and elegant from an intellectual viewpoint than this: resistance through form.” -Eladio Dieste, Uruguayan Engineer.


Scientific: Structural forms versus geometrical forms.
Hooke, Robert. As Hangs the Chain, So Stands the Arch. 1675.

Social: Sustainable design through engineering.
Design goals: Economy, efficient use of materials, elegance in form.

Symbolic: Creation of a new art with previously unimagined forms.
Ability to evaluate and criticize structures.

Questions for Evaluating a Structure

  • What are the dominant loads?
  • Does the form reflect the dominant loading?
  • Is it a clear structural form? i.e., is the flow of forces obvious?
  • Is it an efficient use of materials?
  • Is it economical to construct?
  • Is it an elegant form? What could be improved?

Homework Assignments

There will be five homework assignments weighted as follows (as a percentage of the final grade):

Structures (3 assignments): 30%
Envelope (1 assignment): 15%
Construction Processes (1 assignment): 15%

Final Project

Each student will produce a final project resulting from an approved design moment (most likely from a Level II studio).

The final project will present:

  • a clear understanding of the relationship between superstructure and envelope
  • a knowledge of structural form and design
  • a clear demonstration of connection details
  • justification for the various materials employed
  • understanding of the construction processes involved
  • an appraisal of the envelope performance

Course Grading

Activities Percentages
Homework Assignments 60%
Final Project 40%


Attendance Policy

Attendance is mandatory and the final grade will be lowered automatically for any student with three absences or more.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2002