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Extending Structure and Architecture - Studies in Structural Topology

John A. Blume Distinguished Lecture
William F. Baker
Thursday, April 17, 2008 - 4:30 pm
Tresidder Student Union, Oak Lounge

Today’s computation tools enable structural designers to explore new topologies that may lead to new architectural forms and expressions. The lecture will review recent research at SOM in system definition and form finding and show how they might be realized in buildings. Starting with Michell Trusses as the base line, various computational tools are used in this exploration. These tools include principal stress trajectories, evolutionary structural optimization, homogenization methods, virtual work/LaGrange Multiplier methods, variable topography and genetic algorithms. Examples of how SOM has used these structural topologies in several recent proposals for tall buildings will be presented and discussed.


Bill Baker is the partner in charge of Structural and Civil Engineering for the Chicago and London offices of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM). Since he joined the firm in 1981, his work has encompassed a wide range of engineering projects, from the structural systems of some of the world’s tallest buildings to long span roofs, to small, specialized structures.