Rooted in nature: aesthetics, geometry and structure in the shells of Heinz Isler

Chilton, John and Chuang, Chu-Chun (2017) Rooted in nature: aesthetics, geometry and structure in the shells of Heinz Isler. Nexus Network Journal, 19 (3). pp. 763-785. ISSN 1522-4600

Full text not available from this repository.


Reinforced concrete shells frequently constitute the most visible element of a building envelope. They dominate the architectural expression, yet the three-dimensional form is generally determined by the engineer according to its structural efficiency, rather than by the architect according to aesthetical considerations. This raises the question “Who is the author of the design?”

The design philosophy of recognised shell designers is introduced, specifically that of Swiss shell designer and “structural artist” Heinz Isler, who is considered to have had particular sensitivity to the aesthetics of his shells, rooted in his admiration of the natural world and derived by natural laws.

The Sicli Factory shell, 1968, is taken as a case study and is used to compare Isler’s design method with contemporary digital form-finding using the particle spring method.

It is concluded that there are advantages and disadvantages to both physical and digital modelling methods. Designers should be encouraged to explore with various approaches.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: The final publication is available at via
Keywords: Heinz Isler; Aesthetics of reinforced concrete shells; Sicli SA; Hanging cloth reversed; Particle spring system
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Engineering > Department of Architecture and Built Environment
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Eprints, Support
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2017 08:53
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 19:24

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View