Until a few years ago the paradigm for all building structures was to use as many identical components as possible and assemble them in the simplest way. Thanks to the introduction of computer-aided production processes this has fundamentally changed. These have created new possibilities for transferring structures from nature to building technology. Natural structures are based on the principle of self-organisation and self-repair and thus use principles that are largely unknown in building technology. A closer examination of these can result in structures that far exceed the limits of conventional typologies. In his lecture, Jan Knippers illustrated this with various examples, such as flexible structures inspired by the motion of plants.
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jan Knippers is founder and partner of Knippers Helbig GmbH, an international engineering firm with offices in Stuttgart and New York. His main focus is on complexly formed and parametrically generated structures, on design and optimization processes as well as on structures from membranes and synthetics. As professor he also heads the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) at the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning of the University of Stuttgart and is a member of several national and international associations and standardisation committees.
Computer-aided calculation of filigree structures made of new materials or partially movable building components is where building technology is headed. This calls for a close collaboration between information technology, materials research, architecture and structural planning. Jan Knippers’ engineering firm Knippers Helbig GmbH is representative of an innovative approach to structural planning that defines anew the conventional boundaries between architecture and structural planning. Flagship projects are the Terrence Donelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research in Toronto (architects: Behnisch Architects), Peek und Cloppenburg in Cologne (architect: Renzo Piano), the roof of Expo Shanghai (architects: SBA GmbH) or the PalaisQuartier Frankfurt (architect: M. Fuksas).