Why curved architecture?
When talking about basic every day architectural structures like residential buildings, hospitals, commercial complexes, etc. most people imagine them to be simple and boring geometrically perfect orthogonal shapes standing in silent tandem with equally monotonous surroundings. However, when talking about historical monumental architecture like the Colosseum or the Taj Mahal, the first thing that crosses people’s minds is the stunning elegant curves incorporated into their structures. Unorthodox, unique, and yet soothing to look at, curvaceous architecture has won people over with its elegance and simple beauty.
Subsumed with the element of fluidity and dynamism, curved structures glide in harmony with nature, allowing them to relate and camouflage with the surrounding landscape. With architects like Antoni Gaudi, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, etc. pushing the boundaries of architecture by breaking free from the tedium of angles and perpendiculars, curves have gained prominence in the architectural industry. The demand for the incorporation of curved features and elements in the designs has skyrocketed over the past few years. So, what makes people relentlessly pursue this style of architecture?
History of Curved Architecture
In contrast to what most people might think, the existence of curved architecture is not the gift of modern architectural technologies. In fact, its origin can be traced way back to the renaissance period when Romans first incorporated curves into their structure designs. The earliest structures of Roman Architecture i.e. edifices like the Marcelo Theatre (built in 13 BC), the Colosseum (built in 80 AD) and the Pantheon (built in 126 AD) are some of the most remarkable and exquisite early examples that are still standing tall and proud, exhibiting the appeal of curvaceous architecture.
The greatest accomplishment of the builders of the renaissance period was the introduction of a unique architectural design element i.e. a dome. The Florence Cathedral represents the first major documented implementation of a dome which was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. Devoid of modern technology that aids in complex calculations and enables users to visualize 3D models in the pre-construction phase, he put in extreme efforts and immense brainpower and used the combined knowledge of physics and mathematics to formulate a plan to construct the dome. It was built using 4 million bricks leveraging a double layer system without the requirement of any scaffolding. Since then, domes have been common awning designs of historical religious and institutional buildings all over the world.
With time, as architects experimented with curved architecture, it started spreading its roots in different countries and religions, progressing into more dynamic designs in the form of domes and arches. Curves were also incorporated in residential establishments. These advancements started with traditional Chinese buildings taking the lead. Depiction of curved designs in structures was associated with supremacy and importance which is why Gong buildings subtly adopted them in the building of their imperial structures. Soon these techniques were imitated and exaggeratedly implemented by various religious architecture through golden domes in mosques and conical spires in western churches.
Product of Industrial Revolution
Although curved architecture gained prominence in small structures, domes and roofs, its usage was still limited to those as they were complex to incorporate into large projects without any commercial or mechanical aid. The onset and boom of the industrial revolution brought about drastic changes and improvements in this style of architecture. With the introduction of lighter, more flexible material combined with the ability of mass production with precision using advanced machinery, the construction process, as a whole became increasingly simplified. It enabled architects and builders to design and create complex designs and structures with ease and increased efficiency.
However, after a while when curved structures on the top of buildings became increasingly common to the common eye, they began looking drenched in banality with vertical columns, adorned with similar domes and catenary arches. ‘Free-flow’ or ‘expressionist’ architecture came into the picture only after the dawn of the 20th century. Although, this was a time marred by constant destruction due to wars which led to architectural developments coming to a temporary halt.
In spite of the stifled advancements in the field due to war and dictatorships, it was Germany that began the modernist era and first marked the onset of more exciting and bold usage of curvature in architecture. With the establishment of the Einstein Tower in 1924, Erich Mendelsohn paved the way for buildings inspired by nature and biomorphic forms. The integration of biomimicry in architectural design is what led to the actual advent and subsequent evolution of curved architecture, enabling it to become the epitome of architectural superiority that it is now.
With the advent of the concept of BIM process in the 21st century and the associated software applications supporting Architectural BIM Services, it has become increasingly convenient for architects to design almost any shape and form with ease. Gone were the days when professionals had to do complex calculations to produce hand-draft blueprints that were hardly ever precise or convenient to execute.
Software applications like Revit made collaboration, communication and coordination between professionals from various disciplines increasingly effective and efficient. It also enabled them to visualize the 3D model of the structure even before any actual time, money or resources are committed to commence the project. Additionally, users could use BIM Coordination Services to detect and correct design flaws, inconsistencies and clashes between structural, MEP and architectural models by combining them all together into one 3D model.
All these revolutionary advancements and innovations in the field of architectural and engineering designing solutions were a boon to curved architecture style. It was no longer bound by the limitations of complex calculations and impossible-to-execute physics. With the increased automation in the field of digital building designing solutions, curved architecture has not only flourished but also has become the essence of class and sophistication.
Keeping aside its exquisite form and beauty, curved architecture can also adopt many useful forms as components within the structure. They can add zone, movement, creativity, act as load bearing structures and even furniture pieces. Thanks to latest 3D printing technology that has made designing, visualization and creating complex curvy and asymmetrical shapes increasingly convenient.
The appeal of curved architecture has and will always have a special place in our hearts. This appeal stems from the wild, free and unpredictable nature of curves that humans can relate to as they closely resemble nature. Curves are embodiment of the forces of nature which provides a sense of security and warmth to the viewer which enables them to relate to the structure on an emotional level. While some might feat curved architecture because of the misconception that it is complex to design and costly to execute, it is in fact a great investment that promises to be embedded in the hearts of viewers for a long time.
An experienced and sophisticated architect will always vote in favour of curved architecture because of the thrill of undertaking a dynamic project that would make him stand out of the crowd and receive appreciation for creating something tangent to the mainstream. The freedom to create previously unimagined designs that ignore the rules of precise geometry and angles, gives architects the unmatched chance to express themselves through structure and form and the confidence to challenge preset notions.