By combining methods from the past with new technologies and manufacturing techniques, Philippe Block advocates the efficiency of compression geometry. It offers possibilities to move beyond the slab, beyond the dome, beyond free-form, and ultimately beyond bending. The architect and structural engineer revealed the foundations upon which the award-winning “Beyond Bending” exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016 was based.
“There is a lot we can learn from the ancient master builders, who, due to economic constraints, efficiency considerations and aesthetic requirements, kept discovering innovative forms of expression,” underlines Philippe Block. Designers thus obtain a variety of possible forms with different force diagrams using novel construction planning tools that extend the traditional 2-D representation to three dimensions. The starting point for this method is a revival of forgotten fundamental knowledge. This is combined with the latest advances in the design, engineering, manufacturing and construction of shell structures.
Philippe Block is Associate Professor at the Institute of Technology in Architecture at ETH Zurich where he co-directs the Block Research Group (BRG) together with Dr Tom Van Mele. He is deputy director of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) in Digital Fabrication, and founding partner of Ochsendorf DeJong & Block (ODB Engineering). Block studied architecture and structural engineering at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Belgium and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA, where he earned his PhD in 2009.