Fabric Formwork Workshop Brief

Fabric Formwork Workshop Poster


Humankind has been making doubly curved construction for millennia, for example the ships and galilees of ancient Greece and Rome. For me [Mike Stacey] the inspiration to study Architecture were these boats – the Viking Long ship in Oslo, which I first saw aged 15.[i] Inspiration was found in these beautiful boats, which are both sparse and decorated. These object of humankinds inventiveness set me a sail across the ocean that is Architecture. John H. Fraser, who spoke so eloquently at On Growth and Form at Waterloo School of Architecture during October 2001[ii], the ‘grandfather’ of genetic algorisms in his essay The Generation of Virtual Prototypes for Performance Optimization observes – “The highly developed techniques of projective geometry were capable of describing any complex curvature from a Baroque Vault to the hull of a 74 gun man-o’-war.”[iii]


In this Fabric Formwork Workshop PDF is not a file format, rather ‘it is’ or he is the truly inspirational Piero della Francesca [c. 1415 – 12 October 1492]. The Curators of the National Gallery, Llundain consider “Piero della Francesca as one of the most admired 15th-century Italian painters. The cool colour palette and geometrical compositions contribute to the refined and meditative nature of his works.”[iv]

Untitled8   Untitled12 

Before we start making in the workshop we will design columns, beams and roofs, parametrically. Using graphic or drawing techniques deployed by Jørn Utzon to design Bagsvaerd Church,[v] specifically to create its wonderful cloud inspired celestial roof of single curved sprayed concrete. Do visit Bagsvaerd Church when you have a chance.[vi]


Parametricism is defined by Patrik Schumacher as: “Parametricism offers a new approach to architecture on the basis of advanced computational design tools and techniques…” and as a style is “marked by its aims, ambitions, methodological principles, and evaluative criteria, as well as by its characteristic formal repertoire.”[vii]

However it is just a mode of design iteration and thus is probably as old as architecture itself.

We have two days to cast concrete using fabric formwork in the Atrium of Waterloo School, work hard, learn and enjoy. 

© Images are the copyright of Prof. Michael Stacey, Jenny Grewcock, Piero della Francesca and Jørn Utzon.

[i]  UIO: Museum of Cultural History please see: http://www.khm.uio.no/english/

[ii] On Growth and Form: The Engineering of Nature, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, East Central Region Conference October 2001 at Waterloo School of Architecture, Cambridge, Ontario.

[iii] John H. Fraser The Generation of Virtual Prototypes for Performance Optimization in Game Set And Match II, Kas Oosterhuis and Luka Feireiss, TU Delft, 2006, p209

[iv] http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/piero-della-francesca

[v] Michael Stacey, Concrete a Studio Design Guide, RIBA Publishing, 2011, pp 177-179.

[vi] Jørn Utzon J., Ed. etal, Jørn Utzon Log Book Volume 11, Bagsvaerd Church, Edition Bløndal, 2005

[vii] Patrik Schumacher quoted by on http://www.architecture-tech.com/2010/06/parametricist-manifesto.html, on 10.6.2010, accessed on 4.7.13

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