Gaudí and catenary models

Antoni Gaudí was an early 20th century Spanish architect known for his distinctive organic structures and  innovative use of catenary curve forms. One of the most intriguing aspects of his work are his early preparatory models; a series of three-dimensional models using strings, weights (typically small sacks weighted with lead shot) and gravity. To develop a more complete understanding of his architectural structures, Gaudí would make inverted structural models using cables suspended from the top of the model. Gravity would determine the organic form of the hanging arcs. Photographs taken of the models would be turned upside-down to gain an understanding of compressive forces at work.

 image: catenary model, Antoni Gaudí

 image: catenary model inverted [l] and diagram of cables + weights [r], Antoni Gaudí

As we combine motors and computational prototypes with physical, hand-crafted forms, our goal is to take these lessons from Gaudí to develop architectural interventions that are similarly evocative; both in their intimacy and their immersive qualities.


“Cadenary String Modeller.” Axel Kilian, Ph.D., Dipl.-Ing. Overview of Projects. Web. 25 Nov. 2011. <;.

Pallasmaa, Juhani. The Thinking Hand: Existential and Embodied Wisdom in Architecture. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley, 2009. Print.

Permanyer, L., and Sarah Mollman. Underhill. Gaudi of Barcelona. New York: Rizzoli, 1997. Print.


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