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Wednesday, April 23, 2014
 

Multimedia: Featured

Video: Behind the Candela exhibit


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Engineering assistant professor Maria Garlock describes how Princeton students helped research and build models for an exhibition on architect Félix Candela. Read more.


Video Closed Captions

(music)

Maria Garlock:
"Beautiful engineering" is not an oxymoron,

Maria Garlock:
and what we are trying to teach is along the lines of what David Billington has been teaching for decades.

Maria Garlock:
And that is the idea that there are these best examples of structural

Maria Garlock:
engineering, which are... the best examples are works of art themselves. Bridges, for example,

Maria Garlock:
are pure engineering forms. And these vaulted structures of

Maria Garlock:
Felix Candela's are also pure engineering forms.

Maria Garlock:
And so, what we are trying to illustrate or what we are trying to

Maria Garlock:
teach is this idea of engineering ...

Maria Garlock:
that the best examples of engineering are actually works of art. Felix Candela's structures are pure

Maria Garlock:
structures in the sense that the roof and the walls are all

Maria Garlock:
integrated into one, and it is a pure structural form

Maria Garlock:
based on a very rational engineering basis.

Maria Garlock:
Although Felix Candela was trained as an architect and had an

Maria Garlock:
architecture degree, we say that he was a self-taught

Maria Garlock:
engineer because he had a strong interest and talent in engineering

Maria Garlock:
analysis and in mathematics. When you see the exhibit or you

Maria Garlock:
study his works, you see all of his structures are

Maria Garlock:
all very different in terms of the forms.

Maria Garlock:
[But] they are all based on the hyperbolic

Maria Garlock:
paraboloid geometric form, and they are all only one and a half inches

Maria Garlock:
thick. Candela liked to express that thinness. So when you take a look at his

Maria Garlock:
structures, you visit them or you see them in photographs,

Maria Garlock:
it's very clear how thin these structures are.

Maria Garlock:
It's actually quite striking. If you go to visit them,

Maria Garlock:
and I've seen this, you can go right up to the edge of

Maria Garlock:
that structure and take a ruler and you can measure how thin that these structures

Maria Garlock:
really are. He was able to arrive at this

Maria Garlock:
economy of construction through the geometric shape of the hyperbolic

Maria Garlock:
paraboloid, because a hyperbolic paraboloid --

Maria Garlock:
although curved in two directions like a saddle -- can be formed with

Maria Garlock:
straight lines. And that leads to economy of

Maria Garlock:
construction through straight-line boards instead of curved forms,

Maria Garlock:
which are very expensive in construction.

David Billington:
These things were built economically,

David Billington:
and that is why we are at great pains to show the scaffolding on

David Billington:
which they were built because that is an important part of the exhibition. He was a builder,

David Billington:
and he always considered himself a builder, but he was also a designer.

David Billington:
And because he had a strong aesthetic motivation, he was a structural artist.

Maria Garlock:
The criteria for structural art --

Maria Garlock:
this phrase coined by David Billington -- is that it has to be

Maria Garlock:
efficient in the sense that it minimizes materials but is still

Maria Garlock:
able to carry the forces that it is intended to carry but still being

Maria Garlock:
very safe. It has to be economical by

Maria Garlock:
minimizing the cost -- the cost associated not only with the

Maria Garlock:
building and the construction but also we're talking about long-term

Maria Garlock:
durability. So, when you combine efficiency and

Maria Garlock:
economy, we're talking about a sustainable structure.

Maria Garlock:
And it also has to be elegant. So, what we are showing through

Maria Garlock:
these works of Candela is that he meets these three criteria.

Maria Garlock:
In 1950, Candela did not have the computers or software that would be

Maria Garlock:
available for us today to analyze these structures.

Maria Garlock:
How did the forces on these structures flow to the foundations?

Maria Garlock:
Candela made some assumptions in his analyses,

Maria Garlock:
and what we did was we used the most sophisticated computers and the

Maria Garlock:
most sophisticated software to make these analyses to essentially

Maria Garlock:
confirm what he had assumed in the 1950s.

Maria Garlock:
The exhibit consists of structural models, so smaller-scale,

Maria Garlock:
obviously, models of his works. And we had 19 students involved in

Maria Garlock:
the building of these models. And actually the students were very

Maria Garlock:
much an integral part of the entire project,

Maria Garlock:
not only in the model building, but also the research that went into

Maria Garlock:
this. Because the time that this project began, in 2005, there was still a lot of research

Maria Garlock:
that needed to be done on Candela himself.

Maria Garlock:
We needed to write a book, and we needed to do the research.

Maria Garlock:
So we had students write master's theses, a Ph.D. theses, student projects,

Maria Garlock:
conference papers, and if you look at the book it will

Maria Garlock:
say: "This chapter was written by Edward Segal and the co-authors," for example.

Maria Garlock:
So, we had the students help us to put together the book,

Maria Garlock:
even, and write some of these chapters with us.

Maria Garlock:
So, it was very much an educational project from the very beginning.

Maria Garlock:
So, the education aspect of this exhibition isn't just the exhibition.

Maria Garlock:
The process, the whole development of the project, was an educational process as well.

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