Exploring Form and Forces: Graphic Statics in the Digital Age

Block P., Van Mele T. and Rippmann M.
Architectural Journal China

Original title: 探索形与力:数字时代的图解静力学

Graphic statics is a powerful approach for relating the geome­try of a structure to the forces acting in the structure. Master builders have used this simple but powerful design methodol­ogy to discover structural form for over a century. Enhanced by computation, novel design approaches allow for geomet­rical exploration well beyond historical precedents. Even for highly constrained boundary conditions, infinite solutions are possible and new forms are waiting to be discovered.

Thrust Network Analysis (TNA) extends graphic statics to 3D for contemporary design. Form and force diagrams provide explicit control over the geometry of a spatial network of compressive forces in equilibrium with a set of vertical loads. The form diagram de­fines the directions along which the horizontal thrust in the network can flow, and the lengths of the lines in the force diagram represent the magnitude of those forces. The form and force diagrams demonstrate the logical beauty of TNA-based form finding, going well beyond the classical dome.

Three-dimensional graphic statics expands the intuitive and visual method to fully spatial systems of forces. Equilibrium is now represented by aggregations of closed polyhedra, where each polyhedron represents the equilibrium of a node in 3D.

This paper will show a series of results and case studies from our own graphic-statics based research and practice. The examples demonstrate that traditional methods such as graphic
statics have not been made obsolete by modern computational technologies. In fact, their combination seems to bring out the best of both worlds.


    author  = "Block, P. and Van Mele, T. and Rippmann, M.",
    title   = "Exploring Form and Forces: Graphic Statics in the Digital Age",
    journal = "Architectural Journal China",
    year    = "2017",
    volume  = "",
    number  = "",
    pages   = "",
    month   = "October",
    doi     = "",
    note    = "Special issue on 'Archineering' (Ed. Philip F. Yuan) - submitted",

Related publications

Block P., Van Mele T. and Rippmann M.Geometry of Forces: Exploring the solution space of structural design,GAM,12: 28-37,2016 (April).Special issue S. Peters and A. Trummer (Eds.) - 'Structural Affairs'.
Block P., Van Mele T., Rippmann M. and Paulson N.Beyond Bending - Reimagining Compression Shells,Edition DETAIL,Munich,2017 (October).


ETH Zurich
Institute of Technology in Architecture
Block Research Group
Stefano-Franscini-Platz 1, HIB E 45
8093 Zurich, Switzerland

+41 44 633 38 35  phone
+41 44 633 10 53  fax

Copyright © 2009-2017 Block Research Group, ETH Zurich, Switzerland.