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[2023] Topology optimization of shell structures in architectural design

Ma, J., Lu, H., Lee, T.U., Liu, Y., Bao, D.W. and Xie, Y.M., 2023. Architectural Intelligence, 2(1), p.22. [Link]

Free-form architectural design has gained significant interest in modern architectural practice. Due to their visually appealing nature and inherent structural efficiency, free-form shells have become increasingly popular in architectural applications. Recently, topology optimization has been extended to shell structures, aiming to generate shell designs with ultimate structural efficiency. However, despite the huge potential of topology optimization to facilitate new design for shells, its architectural applications remain limited due to complexity and lack of clear procedures.

This paper presents four design strategies for optimizing free-form shells targeting architectural applications. First, we propose a topology-optimized ribbed shell system to generate free-form rib layouts possessing improved structure performance. A reusable and recyclable formwork system is developed for their effective and sustainable fabrication. Second, we demonstrate that topology optimization can be combined with funicular form-finding techniques to generate a rich variety of elegant designs, offering new design possibilities. Third, we offer cost-effective design solutions using modular components for free-form shells by combining surface planarization and periodic constraint. Finally, we integrate topology optimization with user-defined patterns on free-form shells to facilitate aesthetic expression, exemplified by the Voronoi pattern. The presented strategies can facilitate the usage of topology optimization in shell designs to achieve high-performance and innovative solutions for architectural applications.

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