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Integrating Form, Structure and Acoustics: A Computational Reinterpretation of Frei Otto's Design Method and Vision

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In several of Frei Otto's early membrane structures, acoustics was a rather relevant design aspect that could not be controlled through classical form-finding approaches based on physical models. Moreover, it is possible to add that, geometrically speaking, Frei Otto's membranes could naturally perform acoustically, because of their anticlastic shape and the ability of the convex areas to scatter sound. In this paper, two of Frei Otto's key projects are revisited and redesigned parametrically using mathematical optimisation: first, the Dance Pavilion that was conceived for the Federal Garden Exhibition in Cologne (1957); and, second, the large umbrellas that were built at the same venue in 1971. His architectural form of "necessity" represents the structural optimum, that is, a buildable technology, which can now be informed by other performance criteria, such as acoustics.

This paper was inspired by the rock set designs of Mark Fisher and – in particular – by the retractable umbrellas that Frei Otto designed, in 1977, for the second leg of Pink Floyd's "In the Flesh Tour", which was also known as the "Animals Tour".


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2018

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  • The Journal of the IASS is the peer-reviewed, quarterly journal of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures. The journal mainly presents technical papers and project reports submitted by members or nonmembers of the IASS. Typically, one issue per year focuses on a special topic arranged by guest editors. Additional articles annually include the four Hangai Prize winning papers and Tsuboi Proceedings Award contribution from the IASS annual symposium. Finally, additional content includes announcements of events and memorial statements of distinguished IASS members.
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