Students and Academic staff of École des Ponts ParisTech welcomed the past week one of the great “structural artists” of our time: Dr Chris Williams. Organised by the Thinkshell community at the school, this event is an opportunity to discover the work of this incredibly creative structural engineer.

As we can read on his University of Bath’s profile, “Chris Williams is a structural engineer who worked for Ove Arup and Partners prior to joining the Department.

Chris has a particular interest in the relationship between geometrical form and structural action as applied to bridges, shells, tension structures and tall buildings. This leads to the use of specially written computer programs to generate complex, often organic, forms for architectural and structural applications. His work has been applied in practice with architects and engineers including Foster + Partners, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Branson Coates Architecture, Shigeru Ban Architects, Wilkinson Eyre Architects, Edward Cullinan Architects, Atelier One and Buro Happold.”

One of his most famous project (photo above) is the work on geometry and non-linear structural analysis of British Museum Great Court roof (Foster and Partners, Buro Happold, Waagner-Biro).

Chris Williams was also in charge of the structural analysis of the Mannheim Multihalle for Ove Arup and Partners (photo on the left). The Multihalle is a the first large span timber gridshell and one of the first free-form structures ever built. It was designed in collaboration with Frei Otto (Pritzker Prize 2015) and Tedd Happold (Ove Arup and Partners).

In his lectures, the designer always focus on the relations between design and tools, and he is very interested in discussing how computation has an impact on our practice. His work and approach is an example of how structural creativity can go far beyond the boundaries defined by architecture, art and engineers to merge in an holistic vision of design.

Below is the video of the lecture.

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