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What Story does a Commercial Steel Building Structure tell about a Building’s Journey

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © tegioz | Flickr

Building structure, at face value, is about the framework that holds up the building. But what does a commercial steel building structure reveal about the building perceptually? Does the rhythm of its components add to the excitement of experiencing an architectural work? And when do structural elements that are further detailed (as when a column is uniquely articulated), take on their own behavioral fabric?

Well, there are times when building structure contributes to a magnificent positive tension between building elements and their composition. And this “tension”, if executed well, can make for quite an exciting place to experience.

If you take into account much of Santiago Calatrava’s architectural designs, you cannot help but be inspired by the type of tension his works radiate. As the structures embrace the rhythm that becomes gentle in the places where you would expect it to be most strong — Calatrava uses structure to articulate a language of both strength and delicateness. And this way of pushing structure to such different ends of the same spectrum, I think is one important factor behind what makes Calatrava’s work so interesting, beautiful and surprising.

When considering the Alamillo Bridge project in Seville, Spain by Calatrava it becomes quite breathtaking to see what this architect has done with the angled, and concrete filled, steel mast. By using a steel structure in all its glory, a unique experience is created where the steel structure is revealed to almost imply perceptual movement when it is in fact static. As you can see in the image of the Alamillo Bridge project, structure is certainly being used to make a statement, create experience and meet user needs.

So, when you are putting together the concept for the way in which your next commercial steel building structure is to bring beauty by serving as your building’s bones and tendons — consider how the structure itself could not only support your design, but also bring never-before-seen life into your design as it lifts, pulls, cantilevers, angles or even bends.


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Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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