For the first time, new types of complex load-bearing structures can now be both designed and calculated using a single computer programme. This has become possible thanks to the new software "GENTs", developed as part of a project sponsored by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).
The software combines evolutionary optimisation methods and computer-based calculation tools for the first time to create an intuitive tool for architects and engineers. This combination enables the conception of light, flexible and resource-efficient load-bearing structures out of irregular shapes. The innovative potential of the new software also impressed the jury of the Austrian Building Award and it was voted winner of the "Research and Development" category.
Beam structures support architectural masterpieces. Whether Calatrava, Foster or Coop Himmelb(l)au - those who aim high in the world of architecture inevitably need to rely on these for roofs, bridges or towers. Up to now, however, architectural creativity in this area has been subject to certain limitations, as it was deemed the more regular the structure´s design, the more stable it would be. The software "GENTs" now overturns this idea, allowing irregular structures to be created which still provide a high level of stability and efficiency. This FWF project has thereby laid the foundation for a whole new range of design processes and solutions. This development achievement was officially acknowledged when the software was honoured with the 2011 Austrian Building Award.
The realisation of a design based on this optimisation can now be seen at the Airail Center Frankfurt. Here, a bridge is being built for a mini-metro based on a GENTs design, with the calculative possibilities for structural optimisation, allowing the creation of a dynamic appearance and function. The appearance of the irregular, sinuous design supports the movement of the train as it passes through the bridge. "This design process," says project collaborator DI Arne Hofmann, "would have been inconceivable without the automated calculation and analysis provided by GENTs."
All in all, the GENTs programme, developed within the framework of an FWF project, means closer collaboration between architects and structural planners. It is therefore hardly surprising that the project team headed by Prof. Bollinger, DI Hofmann and DIDr. Preisinger, recently won the Austrian Building Award for Research and Development. The prize money of EUR 10.000 might also be seen as recognition of the importance of investment in basic research, which in this case is contributing significantly to revolutionising building culture.
Katharina Schnell | PR&D
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