Funicular Construction Workshop
Cambridge, Massachusetts | April, 2016
Project Collaborators (Columbia University GSAPP students): Felipe Robayo Rojas, Marcelo Ermirio de Moraes Macedo, Harrison Windsor Ratcliff-Bush
Acknowledgments: John Ochsendorf, Chris Dewert, Jing Liu (SO-IL)
PROMPT: Here is a line. You can change how it looks with the computer, but no matter what you choose, it’s a strong (funicular) line. What do you do as a designer to make that digital line into a physical arch out of a certain volume of material I give you?
The students were given a parametric tool that generates a range of funicular arches using graphic statics in the Rhino/Grasshopper environment. Since they were novices building with masonry, the students were encouraged to keep their design simple and come to a decision quickly to allow more time for construction. After a brief overview of the tools and materials, the team self-organized and began fabricating rough “voussoirs” that were later cut and detailed. They used AAC block and plaster of Paris. The students were let to use their intuition for determining how to design and build, with minimal assistance as they went along. At the end of one day the small team of students from the Columbia University GSAPP built their arch, which was tested to failure.