The Structural Basis of Architecture, Third Edition
Bjørn N. Sandaker, Arne P. Eggen, Mark R. Cruvellier
Routledge, May 2019
Paperback | 8-1/4 x 11 inches | 560 pages | 566 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1138651999 | $39.95
This is a book that shows how to “see” structures as being integral to architecture. It engages a subject that is both about understanding the mechanical aspects of structure as well as being able to relate this to the space, form, and conceptual design ideas that are inherent to the art of building.
Analyzing the structural principles behind many of the best-known works of architecture from past and present alike, this book places the subject within a contemporary context. The subject matter is approached in a qualitative and discursive manner, illustrated by many photographs and structural behavior diagrams. Accessible mathematical equations and worked-out examples are also included so as to deepen a fundamental understanding of the topic.
This new, color edition’s format has been thoroughly revised and its content updated and expanded throughout. It is perfect as either an introductory structures course text or as a designer’s sourcebook for inspiration, for here two essential questions are addressed in parallel fashion: “How do structures work?” and “What form do structures take in the context of architecture – and why so?” A rich, varied and engaging rationale for structural form in architecture thus emerges.
To be honest, Structures was one of my least favorite classes in architecture school. After eking out a passing grade, I was glad to rely on structural engineers for sizing and calculations for projects I would work on after graduation. This somewhat embarrassing fact would seem to make me the last person who should take a stab at reviewing the third edition of The Structural Basis of Architecture; after all, it would be near impossible for me to know if certain information, be it calculations or general assertions, were helpful or even correct. But at the same time, the structural deficiencies in my brain might make me the ideal candidate: If I can follow what the book is saying, anyone can.
The Structural Basis of Architecture is dramatically different than the textbooks I had in Structures class. Instead of page after page of calculations and diagrams, like the first spread below, the book is full of photographs and drawings of historical and contemporary buildings. The authors use the buildings to illustrate structural principles and in many cases discuss them in some detail, like mini case studies. With 560 pages and 566 illustrations (a number that doesn’t include all the force diagrams and other “figures” the authors include alongside the illustrations), there are plenty of examples. Think of a building that has a distinctive structural system and it’s probably in here. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater? Yes, in the chapter on “The Beam and the Slab.” Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall at IIT? Yes indeed, in the chapter on “The Frame and the Shear Wall.” Anything by Frei Otto? He’s in the chapter on “The Cable and the Membrane.” And so on — the book aids architecture students by grounding structural principles and calculations in highly interesting, real-world examples. The book cannot serve as a standalone textbook on Structures, but the book’s mix of case studies and technical information makes it an excellent, thorough introduction to the many ways buildings stand up.
The book’s thirteen chapters are set up as pairs like the three mentioned above, with others including “The Hanger and the Tie,” “The Column and the Wall,” “The Truss and the Frame,” “The Arch and the Vault,” and “The Dome and the Shell.” These come after five chapters that introduce structural systems, discuss the different types of loads that act on structures, run through statics, and then touch upon the various materials buildings are structured from. With chapters no more than 55 pages and each chapter broken down into smaller sections, the book is easy to dip into as needed: Curious, for instance, about tensegrity? Head to chapter 9.10. Unfortunately the two-part index (by subject and by project name) makes it hard to find projects by architect or engineer — a minor fix for the fourth edition.
Bjørn N. Sandaker is a structural engineer and Professor of Architectural Technology at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO), Norway, as well as Adjunct Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway. Arne P. Eggen is an architect and Emeritus Professor at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO), Norway. Mark R. Cruvellier is a structural engineer and the Nathaniel and Margaret Owings Distinguished Alumni Memorial Professor in Architecture as well as former Chair of the Department of Architecture at Cornell University, USA.