Fábrica de Cultura - Tile vaulted auditorium, Barranquilla, Colombia

The project "Fábrica de Cultura" is an arts school to be built in the heart of Barranquilla, Colombia. The Block Research Group is contributing to this joint research project with the development of an innovative structural system: the auditorium vaulted structure. The project seeks to become a prototype of efficient, economic and sustainable construction for the region.

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The structure of the auditorium consists of a ribbed thin-tile vault spanning a space of 20 by 40 meters. The structural design implies novel form-finding tools that combine funicular (compression-only) and acoustical optimization. Innovation in the constructive processes allows the integration of isolation and ventilation mechanisms in between the layers of the vault.




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Room acoustics optimization of funicular shells

Room acoustics optimization of funicular shells

Funicular shell structures are usually characterized by synclastic shapes, which are concave towards the inside. The use of these shapes as sound-reflective ceilings in auditoria is generally avoided, since they can cause undesirable sound concentrations that cause acoustical defects such as echoes and coloration and tend to leave audiences with negative, subjective impressions. Existing concert spaces built with synclastic shapes are normally altered by invasive, sound-reflective surfaces and treatments that significantly alter their spatial qualities. Thrust Network Analysis is capable of generating compression-only shapes that go beyond synclastic surfaces, thus presenting an opportunity for the use of funicular structures in concert auditoria. This research presents the use of Multi-Objective Genetic Algorithms using force densities in the TNA framework as design parameters to control the shape of the ceiling.

Design research on new tile vaulting

Design research on new tile vaulting

This on-going research project explores the new design and efficient construction approaches for tile vaulting, made possible thanks to novel form-finding tools and structurally-informed fabrication and assembly processes.

Tile vaults as integrated formwork for concrete shells

Tile vaults as integrated formwork for concrete shells

This research describes the use of tile vaults as composite and permanent formworks for concrete shells. This would allow the construction of shells that are expressive and economic at the same time. The formwork has load-bearing capacity and, together with the reinforced concrete, creates a reinforced tile vault. However, there is currently no method for designing these structure, nor is there an easy model to assess them. This research thus presents the development of a simple and user-friendly method for the design and structural analysis of reinforced tile vaults. The method applies limit analysis (2D) and Thrust Network Analysis (3D) as it is done with regular masonry but using the boundaries of a shell whose thickness has been virtually increased regarding the additional tensile and bending strength of the new composite system.


Méndez Echenagucia T. and Block P.Acoustic optimization of funicular shells,Proceedings of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) Symposium 2015,Amsterdam,2015 (August).


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