Mind & Matter


Structural Joint Marries Form with Performance

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Potential architectural application of Quadror system. Courtesy of Quadror.


One of the most compelling ways to justify unconventional form-making is by placing value on improved performance. Forms have inherent structural implications, after all, especially when manifest in particular materials. When an architect can defend an atypical formal proposal because of its increased material efficiency and structural resilience, the proposal has a greater chance of success than aesthetic originality alone.

A notable case is the use of the diagrid as a structural frame. Implemented in high-rise icons such as Foster’s Swiss Re or OMA’s CCTV buildings, the diagrid owes its recent popularity to the improved resilience it imparts to structures—especially against the lateral forces that are particularly high in tall buildings. The fact that the visual effect of this geometry differentiates the towers from their neighbors is an added plus.

At the recent Design Indaba conference in Cape Town, the designer Dror Benshetrit of Studio Dror unveiled a structural geometry that performs at a variety of scales. Benshetrit calls the geometry “Quadror,” defining it as a new structural joint with myriad design applications. Images of the joint recall the diagrid strategy of using diagonal framing members to carry gravity loads while providing good resistance to lateral loads. However, Quadror’s real sexiness comes from its depiction in animated form, as viewers can witness planes of simple flat materials quickly transforming into elegant structures. Quadror’s multi-scalar application is also an advantage, and the company’s website visualizes small models, buildings, and bridges alike utilizing the approach.

Although the entrepreneurial Benshetrit seeks to license the Quadror system to manufacturers and investment partners, it is doubtful that he can control the non-licensed replication of his idea. (Is geometry inherently patentable, we might ask?) However, Benshetrit has made a significant contribution to the argument that form and performance are mutually beneficial—a strategy that more architects and designers should adopt in an increasingly resource-conscious world.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.