Tom Van Mele's research while affiliated with ETH Zurich and other places

Publications (87)

Conference Paper
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Reticulated equilibrium shell structures (RESS) are expressive structures governed primarily by efficient axial structural action; they are also hierarchical assemblies of joints, bars, and faces with constrained configurations of pattern, force distribution and equilibrium geometries. Translating performance goals into feasible RESS designs is a d...
Conference Paper
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Reticulated equilibrium shell structures (RESS) designs are efficient axial-dominant structures: they are also constrained combination of three design aspects-structural pattern, force distribution and geometry-that prescribe one another's feasible explorable design space and cannot be modified independently. Research supporting performance-informe...
Article
The paper describes the physical realisation of a 3D-concrete-printed, mortar-free, unreinforced masonry arched footbridge, designed for disassembly and reuse. The paper also details the novel integrated design, engineering and fabrication framework and the manufacturing and assembly processes used for the project. The research, motivated by the ra...
Article
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In an increasing effort to address the environmental challenges caused by the currently linear economic paradigm of “produce, use, and discard”, the construction industry has been shifting towards a more circular model. A circular economy requires closing of the loops, where the end-of-life of a building is considered more carefully, and waste is u...
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The rigid-block equilibrium (RBE) method uses a penalty formulation to measure structural infeasibility or to guide the design of stable discrete-element assemblies from unstable geometry. However, RBE is a purely force-based formulation, and it incorrectly describes stability when complex interface geometries are involved. To overcome this issue,...
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This paper presents a methodology to assess the stability of vaulted masonry structures using Thrust Network Analysis (TNA). It offers a new numerical strategy to compute the Geometric Safety Factor (GSF) of a given structure by directly evaluating its minimum thickness. Moreover, it provides an approach for tracing the vault’s stability domain bas...
Conference Paper
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This work develops new strategies to robustly apply Thrust Network Analysis (TNA) for the assessment of unreinforced masonry (URM) structures studied within the frame of limit analysis. It formulates and solves a nonlinear optimisation problem on thrust networks considering relevant constraints for the assessment of URM structures. Geometrical and...
Article
The Extended Limit Analysis of Reinforced Masonry (ELARM) is a simple and user-friendly method for the design and structural analysis of singly-curved, reinforced tile vaults [1]. It is based on limit analysis but takes into account the reinforcement’s contribution to the composite cross-section’s bending capacity. A three-dimensional approach to E...
Conference Paper
This paper leverages non-Euclidian Geometric Deep Learning (GDL) approaches based on Artificial Neural Network and Graph Convolution Network to model reticulated equilibrium shell structures (RESS) spanning trans-topology structural design spaces, developing modelling studies that variously encapsulate their relations in structural geometry, force...
Article
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This paper presents a parametric stability study of groin, or cross vaults, a structural element widely used in old masonry construction, particularly in Gothic architecture. The vaults’ stability is measured using the geometric safety factor (GSF), computed by evaluating the structure’s minimum thickness through a thrust network analysis (TNA). Th...
Article
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The patterns of many structural systems must fulfil a property of two-colourability to partition their elements into two groups. Such examples include top versus bottom layer of continuous beams in elastic gridshells, corrugated versus non-corrugated directions in corrugated shells or warp versus weft threads in woven structures. Complying with suc...
Conference Paper
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Since a few decades, the Discrete Element Modelling (DEM) method has been adopted by many authors as a reliable tool for the structural assessment of unreinforced masonry (URM) structures. In this paper, through compas_dem and using 3DEC by Itasca as a solver in the background, we investigate the mechanical behaviour of a three-dimensional URM stru...
Conference Paper
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p>This paper reports on the integrated computational design, engineering and construction of the concrete, rib-stiffened funicular floors of the HiLo research & innovation unit, built on the NEST platform in Dübendorf, Switzerland. These floors represent the first application of this innovative technology in a real project. The lightweight structur...
Conference Paper
p>This paper presents the design, engineering and digital fabrication strategies for a circular pedestrian bridge to be built as part of “De Groene Boog” development of the A16 highway north of Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The bridge is designed as a lightweight funicular unreinforced concrete gridshell with openings based on the principle of a thre...
Article
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The structural assessment of doubly-curved vaulted masonry structures, such as pavilion vaults, poses challenges specific to their high degree of indeterminacy. Two-dimensional equilibrium analysis methods may provide a lower bound of load or displacement capacity, but they do not accurately describe the three-dimensional (3D) behaviour of these st...
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In this paper, we introduce an extension of the piecewise rigid displacement (PRD) method for addressing the stability of a generic two-dimensional masonry structure subjected to large displacements. So far, the PRD method has been applied to simulate cracks in the reference configuration considering small displacements. Here, we investigate both c...
Article
There appears in the construction of modern multi-storey buildings in recent years, a prevailing trend for large bay sizes, lightweight floor systems and reduced dividing partitions. These tendencies have aroused a greater awareness of potential vibration problems when the structural floor systems are subjected to human induced activities such as f...
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This paper proposes an extension of the Piecewise Rigid Displacement (PRD) method based on a new dual linear programming problem that minimises the complementary energy. Before, the PRD method had been applied to solve the kinematical problem for masonry-like structures composed of normal, rigid, no-tension (NRNT) material minimising the total pote...
Article
This paper describes the structural design, digital fabrication and construction of KnitCandela, a free-form, concrete waffle shell with KnitCrete, a falsework-less formwork approach using a custom prefabricated knitted textile as multi-functional, structural shuttering layer and a form-found cable net as the main load-bearing formwork. The digital...
Conference Paper
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Design of patterns involves meeting multiple objectives regarding architecture, engineering and construction. Form finding allows to explore the geometrical design space defined by the topol- ogy of the pattern, and to optimise a geometry to meet these objectives. This research introduces rule-based topology finding for the exploration of singulari...
Article
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This paper presents network load path optimisation for the weight minimisation of compression-only thrust networks, allowing for the design of material efficient surface structures. A hybrid evolutionary and function-gradient optimisation process finds the optimal internal force state of the network, by manipulating the force densities of a selecte...
Article
Tile vaults are traditional, unreinforced masonry structures made of thin bricks (tiles), mortar and fast-setting cement or gypsum. They can be constructed without the need for a formwork, except at the boundaries, making them inherently economic. Tile vaults have historically provided a solution for the efficient construction of vaulted structures...
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This paper introduces topology finding of patterns for shell structures such as beam grids for gridshells or voussoir tessellations for vaults, among others. The authors refer to topology finding, by analogy and in complement to form finding, as the design of the connectivity of these patterns in order to follow architectural, structural and constr...
Chapter
The use of Function Representation (FRep) to synthesise and specify geometries for 3D printing is finding renewed interest. The usefulness and extension of this representation in the synthesis and analysis of geometries for the process of large-scale, layered concrete 3D printing has been previously articulated by the authors. This paper fully exte...
Article
A prototype rod-net for a fabric formwork system is described, including the fabrication, control of the geometry via turnbuckles, and the measurement of nodal co-ordinates via an image-based theodolite system. Such a net and fabric formwork system consists of a network of tie elements, either discrete or continuous, forming the main falsework stru...
Article
This paper describes the construction of a thin-shell concrete roof with a novel cable-net and fabric formwork system. The system consists of a fabric shuttering installed on a cable-net structure, which is tensioned from stiff boundary beams supported by standard scaffolding props. The cable-net is made from 2015 uniquely sized cables and rods, co...
Chapter
This paper proposes an Interactive Design Environment and outlines the underlying computational framework to adapt equilibrium modelling techniques from rigid-block masonry to the multi-phase material typically used in large-scale additive manufacture. It focuses on enabling the synthesis of geometries that are structurally and materially feasible...
Chapter
Knitting offers the possibility of creating 3D geometries, including non-developable surfaces, within a single piece of fabric without the necessity of tailoring or stitching. To create a CNC-knitted fabric, a knitting pattern is needed in the form of 2D line-by-line instructions. Currently, these knitting patterns are designed directly in 2D based...
Article
Tile vaults are unreinforced masonry structures made of thin bricks (tiles) and fast-setting mortar that can be constructed needing only formwork along their boundaries, making them inherently economic. Their slenderness and finishing make them also efficient and expressive. These qualities of tile vaulting can be enhanced by combining it with conc...
Article
This paper presents a new computational framework for 3D graphic statics based on the concept of disjointed force polyhedra. At the core of this framework are the Extended Gaussian Image and area-pursuit algorithms, which allow more precise control of the face areas of force polyhedra, and consequently of the magnitudes and distributions of the for...
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MycoTree is a spatial branching structure made out of load-bearing mycelium components. Its geometry was designed using 3D graphic statics, utilising compression-only form to enable the weak material to perform structurally. Using only mycelium and bamboo, the structure represents a provocative vision of how one may move beyond the mining of our co...
Article
The Armadillo vault, exhibited at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale and commended at the 2017 Structural Awards, is a doubly curved, unreinforced, cut-stone, compression-only vault, constructed from 399 limestone blocks. The thickness of the stone varies from 8-12cm at the supports to 5cm at the peak. With a height of 4.4m and spans of over 15m...
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Scale-model testing can be used to understand the equilibrium and validate the computational modelling of discrete-element assemblies subjected to external loads or support displacements. This paper proposes a novel approach to investigate the collapse of discrete-element assemblies using 3D-printed scale models manipulated with force-sensitive rob...
Article
A novel formwork system is presented as a material saving, labour reducing and cost-effective solution for the casting of bespoke doubly curved concrete geometries. The approach uses a custom knit technical textile as a lightweight stay-in-place formwork with integrated solutions for the insertion of additional elements, and is fabricated as a near...
Conference Paper
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This paper presents a methodology to generate structural patterns for masonry vault design. First, a quad- dominant block decomposition is proposed based on a medial axis pruning/rebranching method from an input that comprises outer and inner boundaries as well as point and curve features, representing a point load or a crease in the structure, for...
Conference Paper
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The use of scale model testing for analysing the behaviour of masonry structures is justified by Heyman’s assumptions that establish the main cause of masonry collapse is geometry and not the strength of material. Recently, several works have proved the capability of scale-model tests of simulating complex three dimensional mechanisms of vaulted st...
Conference Paper
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This paper presents a method for constructing global force polyhedra with target face areas. Although the geometric construction and transformations of global force polyhedra and the generation of the corresponding form diagram have been demonstrated before, the initial design explorations using polyhedral reciprocal diagrams have been based strict...
Article
From Inuit igloos to Roman arches to Gothic cathedrals, builders have long used friction and balance to make structures hold together. The Block Research Group at ETH Zurich is involved in ongoing research that investigates historical techniques and fuses them with the latest technologies, including robotics and 3D printing, to establish new method...
Article
This paper describes the use of load-path optimisation for discrete, doubly curved, compression-only structures, represented by thrust networks. The load-path of a thrust network is defined as the sum of the internal forces in the edges multiplied by their lengths. The presented approach allows for the finding of the funicular solution for a networ...
Article
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Over the years, historic unreinforced masonry vaults have been proved to be particularly vulnerable to dynamic actions and large displacements. This paper focuses on the investigation of the structural behaviour of a pavilion vault on spreading supports by means of experimental tests on a 3D–printed scale model made of discrete blocks. Both the col...
Article
This paper describes the concept, form finding, fabrication and experimental testing of a prototype floor system, derived from principles of shallow arching action, to initiate internal compressive stresses rather than exclusively flexural stresses. This vaulting in a floor system leads to a lightweight structural element, with significant weight s...
Article
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New interactive equilibrium methods for the design and analysis of masonry structures have facilitated the construction of masonry structures with a formal language well beyond what is typically associated with compression-only architecture. These developments have also rekindled interest in tile vaulting, and led to a rediscovery of this tradition...
Conference Paper
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This paper reports on the computer-controlled fabrication process of the individual stone blocks of the Armadillo Vault, an expressive funicular masonry vault constructed and exhibited at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition-la Biennale di Venezia. It focuses on the strategies followed to translate the digital model of the compression-onl...
Conference Paper
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This paper introduces a new structural modeling methodology to generate equilibrated, discrete three-dimensional structures—with both compression and tension elements—through geometric transformations and modifications of force polyhedrons. By exploring the geometric properties of polyhedral reciprocal diagrams used in three-dimensional graphic sta...
Conference Paper
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Reinforced-brick shell structures are mainly known through the extraordinary work of the Uruguayan engineer Eladio Dieste. However, other remarkable examples of shells in reinforced masonry were being built during Dieste´s development of the technique or even before. The works by Guillermo González Zuleta in Colombia and Ildefonso Sánchez del Río i...
Article
Dynamic relaxation is an analysis method that can be used to find the static equilibrium state of a structure undergoing large displacements. Due to the algorithm’s iterative nature, which derives from a damped dynamic oscillations approach, it can take considerable time when solving models with dense node counts. This research looks at a vectorise...
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This article investigates how reciprocal form and force polyhedrons can be used to develop procedures for the design of three-dimensional trusses and funicular structures, analogous to the well-known techniques of graphic statics for two-dimensional structural systems. It demonstrates how global equilibrium of a system of forces can be established...
Conference Paper
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This study investigates a computational design approach to generate volumetric decompositions of given, arbitrary, three-dimensional shapes into self supporting, discrete-element assemblies. These assemblies are structures formed by individual units that remain in equilibrium solely as a result of compressive and frictional contact forces between t...