Space frames

Fig. 68: Exposed corner

Norman Foster: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts Norwich (GB), 1978

Fig. 68: Exposed corner

Norman Foster: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts Norwich (GB), 1978

Space frames consist of delicate linear members often joined via ball-like nodes with up to 18 connection options. Besides Konrad Wachsmann and Buckminster Fuller, who devoted themselves enthusiastically to the development of such lightweight structures for long-span roofs, Max Mengeringhausen also played a significant role. It is his "Mero" node, a screwed connection invented in 1942, that is still used today. A space frame comprises top and bottom chord levels together with intermediate three-dimensional diagonals. Depending on whether the space frame is a combination of tetrahedra, octahedra and/or cuboctahedra, the upper and lower levels are either parallel with each other on plan or offset diagonally.

In Norman Foster's Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (1978) the space f rame is resolved into individual trian-

Fig. 69: Identical structure and building envelope for roof and walls, axono-metric view of loadbearing construction with and without cladding

Norman Foster: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich (GB), 1978

Fig. 69: Identical structure and building envelope for roof and walls, axono-metric view of loadbearing construction with and without cladding

Norman Foster: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich (GB), 1978

gular girders (each of which is itself a pair of two lattice beams with a common bottom chord). It is interesting to note that the roof and the walls utilise the same structure and same building envelope. In the walls Foster uses the girder depth of about 3 m not only to integrate services but also to access corridors within the loadbearing level. The nodes of the girders are welded; only the diagonals between the girders were bolted in place on site to suit the erection procedure.

Buckminster Fuller's USA Pavilion for the 1967 World Exposition in Montreal managed to disintegrate entirely the boundary between wall and roof. The truncated sphere - with a diameter of 110 m at the base and an impressive 167 m at the "equator", all achieved with steel tubes having a maximum size of just 9 cm - formed a container for the USA's exhibits. Contrary to Foster's design, the building envelope here - hexagonal acrylic panels - was attached to the inside of the frame. The hexagonal panels matched the framing of the lower level (bottom chord), while the upper level (top chord) consisted of a triangular grid.

Fig. 70: The space frame distributes the loads of the building to four pad foundations.

Benthem Crouwel: private house, Almere (NL), 1984

Fig. 70: The space frame distributes the loads of the building to four pad foundations.

Benthem Crouwel: private house, Almere (NL), 1984

Space frames are generally associated with roofs, or rather long-span roofs; a space frame with a depth of, for example, 4 m, can span up to 70 m. The private house in Almere (NL) by Benthem Crouwel (1984) should therefore be regarded as an extension of the application without ignoring the principles of this form of construction completely. Poor subsoil conditions and the fact that this was originally intended to be a temporary structure - it is still standing and was in fact extended in 1991! - inspired the use of an easily dismantled space frame which distributes the load of the house to four pad foundations, which should be regarded as stub columns. Raising the ground floor above the level of the site also helps to protect the building against moisture from the ground.

Fig. 71: The truncated sphere has a base diameter of 110 m.

Buckminster Fuller: USA Pavilion, EXPO 67, Montreal (CAN), 1967

Fig. 71: The truncated sphere has a base diameter of 110 m.

Buckminster Fuller: USA Pavilion, EXPO 67, Montreal (CAN), 1967

Systems in architecture

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