Exploring complex geometries

It is difficult to set boundaries on the field of structures with complex geometries. This can be explained by its continuous development in complementing fields such as geometry, materials and structural systems, as well as construction methods and multidisciplinary integration.

Morphologies, statics and materials

Computerised 3D modelling and parametrics now allow a high level of flexibility in the geometrical design of structural systems.

The geometry of structures is sometimes the result of a search for form based on the use of a minimal amount of material to withstand the loads, resulting in what is referred to as form strength. In some cases, environmental and functional issues may also lead to geometrical distortions of the structures in order to meet usage, comfort or energy consumption criteria. The singularity of the statics schemas generated contributes to the architectural expression. The materiality resonates with the issues of geometry and statics, because it determines their limits. Structures with complex geometry become responsible structures when one of the project criteria is minimisation of the quantities of material employed and reduction of embodied energy.

Dimensioning and optimisation

Structures with complex geometry are sometimes understood in the sense of “complicated structures”, as their optimised character leads to thorough checks with regard to the risk of instability. Dynamic behaviour is another issue for special structures in seismic areas. Slim structures in particular must be studied regarding wind effects and pedestrian excitation.

Construction methods

Definition of the construction method in the design phase contributes to rationalisation of implementation and shortening of lead times. The development of robotics and numerically-controlled fabrication machines is opening up new prospects. Forward-looking approaches to construction methods and operating and maintenance scenarios are the keys to ensuring economic control and long life of structures.

Summary and transdisciplinarity

Structures with complex geometry are characterised by a substantial influence of each specialist on the consistency of the project. Setec combines expertise on structure, envelope and environment to provide innovating solutions in a spirit of synthesis reinforcing the consistency of the architectural concept. We work to counter the idea that “structures with complex geometry” are synonymous with “complicated structures”. We prefer the concept of integrated structures.


Structure engineer and architect
setec bâtiment
Vincent Baumann is a structure engineer and architect, working on aspects of structures that draw on detailed mastery of geometry and multidisciplinary integration.”