structure conceived as branching columns


MAA winter term seminar, 2017.
The Master in Advanced Architecture’s Seminar Bifurcation, led by the former Executive Architect and Researcher at the Sagrada Familia, Mark Burry.
Computational and Fabrication expert: Rodrigo Aguirre 
Assistants: Thora H Arnardottir, Jakob Havlik & Jayant Khanuja

                 aster students interprete Gaudi's column at
                 Mark Burry's seminar, Bifurcation. Learning
              from his design for the unfinished Colònia Güell chapel (1898-1914) Antoni Gaudí wanted the structure for the Sagrada Família Basilica (1882 – ongoing) to be ‘equilibrated’ and calculated accordingly. By equilibrated we mean that the gravity forces for the whole basilica are directed axially through the columns: each column is therefore aligned to meet these forces as efficiently as possible through their axes. As a calculated optimised solution, every column is positioned slanted rather than vertical, which is atypical compared with what we are used to seeing in the majority of buildings. The Sagrada Família Basilica is, therefore, a visual representation of the accommodation of gravity loading at work.


Columns on their own will not efficiently accommodate all the forces being grounded unless they subdivided through branching-up in order to meet the masses that they are required to support. The lyricism of Gaudí’s expression of worship beneath the canopy of a petrified forest is therefore matched by a lyrical structural solution.

Poetic in its simplicity, such a solution nevertheless introduces formal complexity: how do we make branching columns, and what is the nature of the joint between trunks and branches?



The three columns in the making
Students : Cagan Izigi, Evelina Ilina, Gelder Van Limburg Stirum, Ricardo Mayor Luque, Thanos Zervos, Keesje Avis

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Three profile-curves in development
Students : Kathleen Bainbridge, Camilla Franchini, Javier Lopez Alascio Hervas, Nasser Ghannam, Guoliang Zhang

This workshop looked at two challenges: the description and representation of columns and the creation of a potentially underlying geometrical guide, and how to branch columns and join them elegantly to the trunk.


The aim was to work in two modes: design computation through parametric design software, and physically in terms of thinking about how to produce branching columns with our hands. Focussing on mould-making while considering the alternatives.


The workshop included several lectures and seminars, site visit Sagrada Família, hands-on master classes in Grasshopper™, and digital and hand-made mould making workshop sessions.

Possible profile geometry

Video of the process
Students : Aishwarya Hokrani, Archana Ravikumar, Baghya Venkataramani, Malavika Mehta, Sujal Kodamadanchirayil Suresh.

IAAC, Bifurcation.

Bifurcation - Branching is a workshop at IaaC, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia developed at Master in Advanced Architecture, MAA02 in 2017 

See more on the IAAC blog

Copyright © 2015-2021 Thora H Arnardottir. All rights reserved.

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