inspired by the pioneering works of antonio gaudi, frei otto and felix candela, the students at the C.A.R.E school of architecture in tiruchirapalli, india, have created the ‘o’shell’ prototype to explore the relationship between form and force. the experimental project sought to facilitate vital hands-on experience while establishing an understanding of tension based curved surface structures in an intuitive and playful way. under the guidance of their mentor balaji rajasekaran (dmac group), the work formed part of the students’ procedural design module.
the students on top of the structure
all images courtesy of balaji rajasekaran
the o’shell project was an on-site exercise and gave students the opportunity to create an architectural response based on the parameters of the site. this included deciding on the orientation of the structure, its base-grid and the initial framework. the experiment also gave the students the chance to see the whole work through, from the initial design development to the realization of the structure.
excavation of the plinth beam
the first step in the construction process was to excavate the ground to form the plinth beam. after this, the students worked together to erect the steel structure. by utilizing the tensile property of steel, the project embraced a non-standard/non-linear process with on-site active bending as a design driver without any formwork or shuttering to hold the concrete or guide the geometry. the base framework was derived using the site parameters, which was followed by weaving and bending of the steel based on the team’s understanding of stress line methods to inform the conceptual structural design.
plinth beam concreting
in general, for a ferrocement structure, a standard of 150 mm spacing between reinforcements is to be maintained throughout. in this case, the students reached up to 750 mm in the top portion of the structure by simply utilizing their understanding of force lines. devoid of any high-tech production systems, o’shell instead relied on the idea of human robots (the hands of students and unskilled laborers). the build was completed within 20 working days, from the conceptualization of the design, to construction of the structure and to final completion of the project.
erection of top ring beam
on-site weaving and bending
the skeleton structure viewed from above
skeleton and chicken mesh
the first layer of concreting
the completed structure
aerial drone shot
birds-eye drone shot
top drone shot
project name: o’shell
location: tiruchirapalli, india
design: the students at C.A.R.E school of architecture under the mentorship of balaji rajasekaran (dmac group)
edited by: lynne myers | designboom