Structural Design
Sergio Musmeci: The Form as the Unknown
L. Ingold
2014 -

Basento Bridge in Potenza (Photograph: Lukas Ingold)

Sergio Musmeci (1926-1981) is an interdisciplinary figure between the fields of architecture and structural engineering in the postwar period in Italy. His multifaceted work is based on experimental design methods and represents an ideal of a reciprocal dependency between structure and architectural form in an exceptional way. Musmeci researches novel, material- efficient forms for reinforced concrete structures. His experiments with mathematical and physical models allow him to derive forms directly from the conditions of the force flow. This approach conveys his fundamental assumption, that not the stresses, but the form is the unknown. At the same time the resulting continuity expresses the plastic potential of the moldable construction material reinforced concrete.

The research project studies the structural conceptions of Musmeci as parts of a genealogical development. This evolution can be followed from the early, typological folded plate structures to the exploration of novel continuous surface structures. The stepwise change from economic constructions towards «minimal structures» is discussed related to the context, characterized by the Italian school of engineering and the international form-finding tendency. Based on primary sources, the analysis of several exemplary projects allows to explain the emergence of the design method and its effect on the form. The investigation enables to retrace Musmeciís specific design process and the exemplification of interlacing architectural and engineering- technical questions, occurring due to the new challenges and scales in construction. The significant approach of Musmeci is reflected in an important, transdisciplinary movement of thought, which appears during the heyday of the postwar period.

The research project is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Mobility Fellowship and by the Istituto Svizzero di Roma (ISR).

last modified 19.9.2016