o’shell experiments with tension based structures and student collaboration in india

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. 

o'shell experiments with tension based structures and student collaboration in india designboom

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.

o'shell experiments with tension based structures and student collaboration in india designboom

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.

o'shell experiments with tension based structures and student collaboration in india designboom

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.

o'shell experiments with tension based structures and student collaboration in india designboom

erection of top ring beam

o'shell experiments with tension based structures and student collaboration in india designboom

on-site weaving and bending

o'shell experiments with tension based structures and student collaboration in india designboom

the skeleton structure viewed from above

o'shell experiments with tension based structures and student collaboration in india designboom

skeleton and chicken mesh

o'shell experiments with tension based structures and student collaboration in india designboom

the first layer of concreting

o'shell experiments with tension based structures and student collaboration in india designboom

the completed structure

o'shell experiments with tension based structures and student collaboration in india designboom

aerial drone shot

o'shell experiments with tension based structures and student collaboration in india designboom

birds-eye drone shot

o'shell experiments with tension based structures and student collaboration in india designboom

top drone shot

project info:

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)

designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

edited by: lynne myers | designboom

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