Theme

Form Follows Function, notes for a natural architecture, aims to study the form-function in architecture, especially how some forms could come from the research around the natural events, moreover how the form-function in architecture could achieve great formal results.

Starting with a research around the duo form-function in architecture, I begun to recognize that some really interesting shapes in architecture are not only the answer of a formal process, but have a properly language of structural efficiency.

In the history of architecture the structure has been always thought with empirical calculation that base all the knowledge on the experiences of the designers and builders. The modern thought of statistic started with two figures in the XVII century, Gilles Personne de Roberval (1602-1675) and Pierre Varignon (1654-1722), especially the latter was the first that imagined forces as lines that could be designed and measured on a piece of paper. This is the beginning of the graphic statistic and of a new comprehension about the forms in
architecture. It opens multiple chooses of architecture formal language and a new possibilities to use weak materials as stones or, only in the last century, to maximize the efficiency of the structure.

All my researches have come to end with a project that would shows how a proper form, in harmony with the natural environment, could stand even in a such difficult context as Venice.

I have chosen the project of a bridge because “bridges could not lie”, their shapes is essentially what they need to stand furthermore nothing could be really hidden behind a cover so the real essence is clearly visible by everyone.

Now, after this thesis, I certainly would say that “form ever follows function” and when this happens architecture reaches new and interesting meanings.

Project

The project influenced the research and viceversa, so everything I projected has an acknowledgement in the history of structural architecture and it is proved by the fact that all of the reference buildings actually stands. The new Solesin’s bridge is located in the north west of Venice, in connection with the new university campus of San Giobbe and the railway station of Santa Lucia.

The span of the bridge is 29,5 meter, the heights of the abutments are +3,64 meter for the station side and +1,75 meter for the university side and is needed a maximum height not lower than 3,85meter on the mean sea level to allow the transit of ships. All of these conditions have led an arch of 58 meter radius that end in two monolithic springs that, with a step in both sides, mark the start and the end of the bridge’s span.

In the next page there is the site plan and the two cuts in the keystone that allow to see two different solutions of the abutments that represent the formal answer of the different site plan condition, in fact the two abutments have different heights and that involve different structural forces on them, whereas beside there is a collage that shows the station’s abutment with the step which introduces to the bridge and in the background the ex Mulino Passuello, now the new economic campus of Ca’ Foscari.

The shape of the bridge has been designed with graphic statistics analysis, in particular with a study around thrust lines that proves how a funicular polygon can be drawn by purely graphical means without any preliminary calculation. The image in the book of thesis (image beside) shows a drawing by Karl Culmann printed in “Die graphische Statik, 1886, p.556” that represents a study of a the construction of the finical polygon which I used to design the thickness of the bridge and verifies the safety of it in different load situation.
The possibility to design and verify project by graphical methods is something well known from the past, so during the centuries happened that this knowledge allowed, for example, to verify and restore Saint Peter in Rome in XVII century by Givanni Poleni or project the domes of the Saint Paul Cathedral in London by Robert Hooke, those facts allows me to be sure about the forces acting in the bridge section.

All of these notions are supported by an additional study of real behavior of the projected bridge. It stands like a stone skeleton that is in harmony with the environment and suits to the natural modification and adaptation of the structure. As a proper skeleton moves, as shown on left beside (board 6 of the project thesis), and becomes part of the lagoon natural movements, moreover it uses the surrounding buildings as a support to dissipate the huge horizontal forces and to created a cinematic behavior antagonistic of the natura lowering of the keystone. With this thesis I would like to show how architectural form could follows function according to the compatibility of the environment, therefore the bridge is not “on” the lagoon, but is “of” the lagoon, belonging to it, because Venice and bridges live together each the happier for the other.