international association for shell and spatial structures

Working Group 15: Structural Morphology


Innovation of building structures through research on form, material and fabrication.


Since its founding in 1991, the "Structural Morphology Group" (SMG) has focused on the relationship between geometry and structures.  Over the years, the working group has published 15 SMG Newsletters, organized 7 international seminars, and held numerous special sessions at the annual IASS symposia, culminating in the publication of “An Anthology of Structural Morphology” in 2009.  A sub-working group on Free Form Design was established in 2005 and organized 2 international seminars.  In 2009 after the 6th international seminar of the SMG “Morphogensis,” the sub-working group was merged to form an integral part of the working group.

The working group supports the formation of ad hoc study groups that focus on specific topics around its research interest and stimulates researchers from inside and outside the SMG to participate in these study groups.  The study groups provide a platform for researchers, engineers and designers to communicate and share knowledge in the various research fields linked to structural morphology.  Members of the SMG and IASS are encouraged to contribute to the study groups by performing research, publishing articles related to the research fields, informing other members of interesting activities worldwide, discussing new niches in research and other activities aimed at knowledge sharing and dissemination.

Research Foci

  • Geometry: describing and controlling (complex) geometry, including parametric design
  • Form-Force relationship: the study of the interdependency of structural geometry and mechanical or kinetic behaviour
  • Form-Mobility relationship: the study of the interdependency of structural geometry and transformability
  • Computation: design, calculation, performance, form finding, optimisation, morphogenesis, parametric design, etc.
  • Technology transfer: cross over with other disciplines, e.g., mathematics, biology, etc.
  • Prototyping: physical and virtual model making and fabrication

Current Objectives

  • Organize special sessions at IASS Symposia and Colloquia related to Structural Morphology
  • Organize every three years an international seminar to present and discuss the results of the SMG study groups
  • Publish state-of-the-art reports on the research done by the SMG study groups
  • Contribute to the organization and editing of Special Issues of the Journal of the IASS related to Structural Morphology and the SMG study groups

Current Study Groups

Transformable Structures (study group leader: Niels De Temmerman): The research objective of the study group Transformable Structures is to bring together expertise and expand knowledge related to the geometric design and structural analysis of transformable structures within the field of architectural and structural engineering. The transformation of such structures, aimed at adapting to changing circumstances, is either done by mechanisms (deployable/foldable) or through the use of reconfigurable components (dismountable/meccano-like).

Origami (study group leader: Tomohiro Tachi): The research objective of the study group Origami is to bring new ideas, based on origami research, to the field of structural design and fabrication technologies. The goal of the study group goes well beyond the application of origami patterns in design. The aim is to innovate structures and fabrication technologies through the fundamental understanding of the dynamic and geometric characteristics of origami.

Active Bending (study group leaders: Christoph Gengnagel and Julian Lienhard): The primary goal of the 'Active Bending' study group is to support a focused exchange for engineering researchers and practitioners that share exploiting elastic bending as a means to generate curved geometries from initially straight or planar building elements.

Graphical Methods (Study group leader: Masoud Akbarzadeh and Corentin Fivet): The “Graphical Methods” study group’s aim is to discover lost knowledge and techniques, develop novel methods and tools, share practical case studies, and, in general, to educate architects and structural engineers of the power of graphical approaches in structural design and analysis, to promote their use. 

Activities during 2019-2021

  • Published a Special Issue of the IASS Journal on Transformables: Deployable Structures and Rapidly Assembled Systems (Vol. 60 (2019) No. 1 March n. 199, guest editor: N. De Temmerman)
  • Organised a number of special session(s) at the IASS Symposium 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. Also, the postponed 2020 conference, taking place in Surrey, UK in August 2021 shows a number of organised special sessions on the topics of the study groups
  • Structural Origami Gatherings in 2020 (San Francisco) and also as online events in 2020 and 2021
  • ReciPlyDome: a transformable reciprocal frame structure with bending-active elements, was shown at a science exhibition in Brussels, Belgium, as part of a virtual reality rig:

Anticipated Future Activities

  • Further populate and consolidate the SMG study groups
  • Organise special session(s) at future IASS Symposia. Look out for those at the 2022 Bejing Conference
  • Origami gatherings are taking place bi -annually in January and August. Next meetings are planned for 2022
  • The study group on Graphical Methods is organizing a session on Optimized Structural Design at ASCE Structures Congress 2022

Current Membership

All current members of the Working Group, listed below, are members of the IASS. The Working Group and its study groups welcomes new members who are interested in Structural Morphology; those interested should please contact the chairs of the Working Group or any of the study group leaders.

  • Prof. dr. ir. arch. Niels DE TEMMERMAN (Chair) - Belgium
  • Dr. Tomohiro TACHI (Co-chair) - Japan

Further Information for IASS Members

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