Bending-active Plates: Form-finding and Form-conversion

Berkeley Weave installed in the courtyard at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design

Simon Schleicher, Assistant Professor Architecture


Simon Schleicher, Assistant Professor Architecture, Riccardo La Manga, Dipl.-Ing


Collaborating Institutions
University of California, Berkeley – Department of Architecture
University of Stuttgart – Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE)

Project Description

In this paper, the authors Simon Schleicher and Riccardo La Manga aim to contribute to the discourse on bending-active structures by highlighting two different design methods, form-finding and form-conversion. The authors compare the two methods through close analysis of bending-active plate structures, discussing their advantages and disadvantages based on three built case studies. This paper introduces the core ideas behind bending-active structures, a rather new structural system that makes targeted use of large elastic deformations to generate and stabilise complex geometrical forms based on initially planar elements.

Previous research has focused mainly on form-finding. As a bottom-up approach, it begins with flat plates and recreates the bending and coupling process digitally to gradually determine the final shape. Form-conversion, conversely, begins with a predefined shape that is then discretized by strategic surface tiling and informed mesh subdivision, and which in turn considers the geometrical and structural constraints given by the plates. The three built case studies exemplify how these methods integrate into the design process. The first case study applies physical and digital form-finding techniques to build a chaise lounge. The latter two convert a desired shape into wide-spanning constructions that either weave multiple strips together or connect distant layers with each other, providing additional rigidity. The presented case studies successfully prove the effectiveness of form-finding and form-conversion methods and render a newly emerging design space for the planning, fabrication, and construction of bending-active structures.

Bending-active Plates: Form-finding and Form-conversion (PDF Download Available)