Framing a Work of Art

by Hal Iyengar, (F.ASCE), Sr. Engrg. Consultant; Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP, Chicago, IL,
Lawrence Novak, Assoc.; Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP, Chicago, IL,
Robert Sinn, (M.ASCE), Assoc. Partner; Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP, Chicago, IL,
John Zils, (F.ASCE), Assoc. Partner; Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP, Chicago, IL,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1998, Vol. 68, Issue 3, Pg. 44-47

Document Type: Feature article

Abstract: One of the most visually unique building designs of the twentieth century, the Guggenheim Museum project in Bilbao, Spain, required an innovative structural engineering solution and pioneering use and sharing of computer generated information between architects, engineers, steel detailers, and fabricators. The design for the building form is highly stylized, geometric, and characteristic of architect Frank O. Gehry's work: an interplay of compound curvilinear forms in concert with fractured and acute planar surfaces symbolizes the abstract artwork to be displayed within the building. The structural system for the curved exterior surfaces can best be described as a three-dimensional equivalent of a traditional concrete bearing wall framed entirely in structural steel. The system was conceived based upon a universal system that could be applied to any geometric arrangement. To fit the geometric contour of the exterior envelope, a discretized structural fabric grid was developed. The segmented steel lattice frame system allowed for prefabrication in a shop environment using computer-controlled techniques to achieve a high degree of accuracy for assembly in the field.

Subject Headings: Building design | Curvature | Innovation | Steel | Steel frames | Structural engineering |

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