ARCH3214/6214: Structural Systems

Performance of Structural Framing Systems


Course Introduction:

“Technology is far more than a method. It is a world in itself. As a method it is superior in almost every respect. But only where it is left to itself, as in gigantic structures of engineering, there technology reveals its true nature. There it is evident that it is not only a useful means but that it is something that has a meaning and a powerful form -so powerful in fact, that it is not easy to name it. Where technology reaches its real fulfillment it transcends into architecture.”

Mies van der Rohe, From IIT address, 1950

“It is radical and conservative at once. It is radical in accepting the scientific and technological driving and sustaining forces of our time. It has a scientific character, but it is not science. It uses technological means but it is not technology. It is conservative as it is not only concerned with a purpose but also with a meaning, as it is not only concerned with a function but also with an expression. It is conservative as it is based on the eternal laws of architecture: Order, Space, Proportion.”

Mies van der Rohe, From essay on the IIT curriculum

Two contrasting remarks made by Mies van der Rohe suggest the complex role of technology in architecture. The recent technological obsession in the field is fueled by the proliferation of sophisticated, and inexpensive structural, environmental and visual computer simulations.

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It reignited the interest in building performance, primarily as a means to justify ever more complex forms.

However, without a fundamental understanding of building systems in the design process, it will become a superficial nod to the old functionalist thinking of predicting the predictable. This course intends to impart students with an innate understanding of relationships amongst parameters of structural framing systems and their impact on design decisions. The primary objective is to provide a sound conceptual understating and vocabulary necessary for future architects to lead the engineers and contractors with confidence.

Connecting the beams, The Construction of the Empire State Building, 1930-1931  Photo: Lewis Wickes Hine New York Public Library Collection