Functionality of form

Different arch forms. Illustration: NTNU/Anders Rønnquist.

Form inspires both architects and engineers to accomplish elegance in structures. The famous architect Louis Sullivan stated in 1896 “form follows function”. This well-known phrase express the importance of the shape to be based primarily on its intended function, i.e., that the sole purpose of the building should determine from its form. Moussavi followed up this view of form and function, and stated the expression “the function of form”, by simply asking “But, if not function, what does form follow?”

The functionality of form is a highly relevant and useful concept in engineering. As architects generally are more concerned with the form of a structure, engineers tend to focus on the structural functionality. Structures with irregular shapes and complex geometry are popular amongst architects but not equally important for structural engineers. By exploring the contributions from the engineering profession to the functionality of form, structural engineers may be able to deal with these complex functional and contextual parameters. More knowledge on structures with organic shape and irregular geometry for structural engineers makes them able to give advice and input in collaboration with architects.


Force flow through lobes to groins. Illustration: NTNU/Anders Rønnquist.

To create an astonishing building, it should both have an appealing look and be structurally efficient. By recognizing how small changes in form can better exploit the structural potential of an architectural proposal, structures that at first were considered complicated or unsound may still be designed, structurally analysed and built without large computational efforts or too costly construction.


Finalized in 2015.