Funicular Funnel Shells

Rippmann M. and Block P.
Proceedings of the Design Modeling Symposium Berlin 2013
Berlin, Germany

This paper introduces a new typology of structurally efficient, funnel-shaped shells for light and open architectural applications. We discuss a novel approach for structural form finding of self-supporting shell shapes by defining free boundaries which are balanced by continuous tension rings. Existing funnel-shaped structures illustrate the compelling possibilities for design variation in which vertical and horizontal structural elements transition smoothly. This transition can create exciting spatial configurations but its implementation often lacks structural efficiency. Initially delicate designs are thus often executed using bulky cantilevers, which derogate the true elegance of these natural shapes. The new techniques discussed in this paper demonstrate how the combination of compression-only form with funicular tension rings leads to a great variety of efficient and elegant forms. The research demonstrates how compression and tension forces can be explicitly controlled and manipulated locally in such structures, using a fully implemented, digital form-finding tool based on Thrust Network Analysis. Thanks to the flexible implementation, resulting shell designs range from simple shapes of revolution to complex, tension-ring configurations with perforations and undulating ridge edges. Independent of their complexity, all resulting shells are subject to the clear and comprehensible structural system. This clarity aids to ensure structural stability in simple sequences of construction, and hence suggest efficient installation with minimal falsework. The structural system is tested and verified using a 3D-printed, discrete, structural scale model. The natural elegance and delicate composition of form and force in compression and tension showcased in this funnel rib-vaulted model, hints to the new possibilities for contemporary, architectural applications of the presented structural typology.


    author    = "Rippmann, M. and Block, P.",
    title     = "Funicular Funnel Shells",
    booktitle = "Proceedings of the Design Modeling Symposium Berlin 2013",
    year      = "2013",
    editor    = "Gengnagel, C. and Kilian, A. and Nembrini, J. and Scheurer, F.",
    volume    = "",
    number    = "",
    pages     = "75-89",
    publisher = "",
    address   = "Berlin, Germany",
    month     = "October",
    doi       = "",
    note      = "",

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