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Transcript of Frei Otto
Life & Milestones
Today, at the age of 88, he is still practicing architecture. He has made his mark with a number of impressive ultra-modern and super-light tent-like and membrane structures and has pioneered advances in structural mathematics and civil engineer, where no other architect at his time has reached his greatness.
“I never wanted to be a hero,” says Frei Otto.
He has went in a unique way using innovative materials in his work to become a pioneer in his field. Otto's major works were concerned with space frames and structural efficiency of inflatable buildings. His works go far beyond traditional methods of calculating structural stresses.
Frei Otto is a German architect and structural engineer whose work continues to inspire generations, particularly leading British architects whereas Richard Rogers, Grimshaw, Cullinan, Hopkins, Jiricna and Norman Foster all owe him a huge debt.
Visions & Ideology
The creation of beautiful or significant things; "art does not need to be innovative to be good"; "I was never any good at art"Frei Otto believes that architecture is the art of wasting space beautifully".
Frei Otto was Influenced By:-
Freo Otto's Stance On:-
Following will be a video featuring Frei Otto's life and milestones. It is an extract from a documentary that will be released called "Spanning the Future" about Frei Otto.
Frei Otto, and very few people actually developed a "philosophy" of lightweight construction with social
connections. Another who did was Buckminster Fuller who defined the weight of buildings as a measure of the
standard of development not just of industrialization, but also of mankind.
Otto has a unique philosophy in his architectural approach where his works have to be based upon intense scientific experimenting and in particularly physics. He began experimenting with tents and shelters. As well as an architect, engineer and inventor, Otto also likes to think of himself as a natural scientist and experimental physicist.
In 1960 Otto set up a biological research unit to study natural structures. Drawing inspiration from plant cells, bubbles and other organic forms, the unit developed a system of shell structures whose skins are inflated with air.
“Maybe you know that I was a close friend of Bucky Fuller, and we debated the idea of large domes. But why should we build very large spaces when they are not necessary? We can build houses which are two or three kilometers high and we can design halls spanning several kilometers and covering a whole city but we have to ask what does it really make? What does society really need?”.
From this we can know that Frei Otto cared for function of the building and spaces with a target in the construction process. He was concerned with space frames and structural efficiency, and both experimented with inflatable buildings. His work goes far beyond traditional methods of calculating
Harmony & Nature
“For him, this work on natural constructions is a part of a rational form-finding process following natural laws, but it is also part of a larger vision directed at a peaceful and free society in harmony with itself and nature.” – The Japan Art Association
Otto did not construct any pure tensegrity structures, but his membrane and fabric structures were a critical influence on today's tensegrity explorers. Because the resulting structures are highly regarded as an architectural creation beautifully in harmony with nature.
“Everything man is doing in architecture is to try to go against nature,” he says. “The idea to be a part of nature is a brand new idea of the last century. Of course we have to understand nature to know how far we have to go against nature. The secret, I think, of the future is not doing too much. All architects have the tendency to do too much.”
“Using air as a building material means that the amount of material you need is very minimal so you can dedicate your forces to the relation between animals and man, and man and plants, and make an environment which is in equilibrium.”
As mentioned earlier in this presentation, Frei Otto is the world's leading authority on lightweight tensile and membrane structures, he has pioneered advanced in structural mathematics and civil engineering. He has many main structural influences, whereas his main career influence was Buckminster Fuller's architectural experiments, initially by Expressionism and his admiration of airplanes proper for his previous experience as a pilot in the war. He has created space frames concerned with structural efficiency where he has experimented far beyond traditional methods of calculating structural stresses.
Series of experiments using soap bubbles were used to calculate the ideal surface curvature necessary for the massive space to be constructed by the cable net and membrane structures. The resulting structures are highly regarded as an architectural creation beautifully in harmony with nature. He did not construct any pure tensegrity structures but his membrane and fabric structures were a critical influence on today's tensegrity explorers. He has created innovative approaches of tent-like roofs which were ironically based on traditional tents yet with infinitely expanded in terms of shapes and materials.
Otto also developed the convertible roof type, in which variable geometry permitted the roof canopy to be extended or retracted at will; an example is the roof for the open-air theatre, Bad Hersfeld Hessen.
Branching structures are based on geometric systems that expand through bifurcation without returning to form closed cells. In this sense, branching structures resemble the structure of trees that branch continually outward. In architectural engineering, these forms can be used either as tension or compression systems. Numerous built examples have been produced since the initial inspiring studies made by Frei Otto in the early 1960's. Form finding techniques based on models have been used in the past to study these forms.
Heart Tent” of the Diplomatic Club in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, called “Tuwaiq Palace”, 1986. Paintings by Bettina Otto (Oho Joint Venture: F. Otto, T. Happold, Omrania)
The German Pavilion, Expo '67, Montreal, Canada (Rolf Gutbrod, Frei Otto and
Feasibility study “City in the Antarctica“, 1971. Air-supported building as climatic shell over a city (together with E. Bubner, K. Tange, O. Arup).
Convertible Umbrellas at the Bundesgartenschau, Cologne, Germany 1971 (together with B. Rasch, H. Isler)
Glance into the model of the six-angle gridshell on branched pillars over the leafy patio of Kings Office, Council of Ministers, Majlis al Shura, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1979 (Rolf Gutbrod, Frei Otto, Büro Happold, Ove Arup and Partner).
Architecture is an existential matter for Frei Otto. He is not interested in creating a piece just for an individual client, or in self presentation, he wants his buildings to contribute to improving everyone's living conditions. He is not interested in constructing individual works, but in conducting a process that is directed at vision at creating architecture for a peaceful society in harmony with nature.
An earth for mankind sums up man's earthly habitat”. It is the architect's job to work on “sustaining the habitat” that includes all the realms of man and nature: “I am constantly amazed that even colleagues cannot see the wonderful image of this earth.” Only Bruno Taut, shortly after the First World War, formulated a similar vision of the earth, calling it a “good dwelling” for all mankind” "Buildings
Frei Otto is a noted designer of exhibition tents and sport arenas. He has experimented with pneumatic membranes stabilized and maintained by means of air and gas pressure. Structures built with these membranes are used for oil storage tanks, grain silos, and greenhouses. “I have built little”
He believes in that there is no need for other function than to protect the people underneath them, and simply taken down again when the people go away. The open spaces with fluent transition to the surrounding area dew visitors in and did not keep them captive “A gentle roof like a cloudscape” was Frei Otto's poetic image for the vision of a peacefully cheerful harmony between protective roof, landscape and people, and at the same time invoked the mobility and transience of the tent structures.
The German engineer's quest to discover the lightest, strongest, most responsive and elegant structural solutions for buildings has drawn his imagination across history and through
Otto was responsible for the revival and development of the tent as a structural form in modern architectural design, exploring a host of new and complex shapes using models at a time when the analysis of such structures was in its infancy.
Otto's career bears a similarity to Buckminster Fuller's architectural experiments which Fuller is an American architect. From this we can know that Frei Otto cared for function of the building and spaces with a target in the construction process. Both taught at Washington University in St. Louis in the late 1950's, both were architects of major pavilions at the Montreal Expo of 1967, both were concerned with space frames and structural efficiency, and both experimented with inflatable buildings. The work of both men go far beyond traditional methods of calculating structural stresses like Fuller’s geodesic dome in Australia.
His designs are regarded to have been heavily influenced by Australian architect Barry Patten, and his most famous design, the Myer Music Bowl (1959) in Melbourne.
Walter Gropius himself, founder of the Bauhaus, acknowledged Frei Otto as a follower of his principles, and as a true successor of the philosophy and methodology that pervaded the foundation of the Bauhaus, as he does not start from any prior formal approach, but rather considers form as a result of a search process.
Architects Influenced by Frei Otto:-
Bodo Rasch is his pupil, both in his office and at Stuttgart's Institute for Lightweight Structures, and has specialized in taking Frei Otto's ideas to the Holy places of Islam. There is an expanded version of the catalogue of the exhibition held at munich on the occasion of Otto & Rasch receiving the Deautsche Werkbund Bayer prize.
From Frei Otto, Zaha Haddid learned how the richness, organic coherence and fluidity of the forms and spaces ZHA desire could emerge retionally from an intricate balance of forces. “Otto is the world's leading authority on lightweight tensile and membrane structures and famously created the roof of the 1972 Munich Olympic Arena. One particular area of research Zaha Hadid Architects are exploring with its installation is the domain of lightweight shells in combination with tensile structures. ZHA have already designed a number of complex shells as well as some tensile structures. The Arum shell is an installation made from pleated metal.
Whereas Richard Rogers, Grimshaw, Cullinan, Hopkins, Jiricna and Norman Foster all owe him a huge debt.
Located in Munich, Germany. Situated at the heart of the Olympiapark München in northern Munich.
Built as the main venue for the 1972 Summer Olympics.
It can hold up to 80,000 people.
Architect: Frei Otto, Günther Behnisch, Hermann Peltz and Carlo Weber
The Munich stadium complex for the 1972 Summer Olympics is a perfect example of how site and structure can blend together. Undulating roofs and dramatically sculpted earth-scapes unify the setting. Both inside the halls and out among the park setting visitors are provided with a sophisticated series of experiences.
The original requirements, as imposed by the Olympic Committee, were very clear at the time. No less than 80,000 seats should be provided in the main stadium, and a smaller enclosed sports hall and swimming hall should also be provided. Other facilities should include a warm-up arena and an enclosed workout facility.
When the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1972 Olympic Games to Munich in 1966, the city had no large sports arenas. Previous planning however had already selected he best site for the new facility, an empty tract of land about three miles north of central Munich. The site was originally the setting of a 1930’s airfield, a former training ground for the Bavarian Royal Army and the site of Munich’s first civil airport. During the cleanup after the second World War, the ground had been used as a dump yard for ruined buildings’ rubble. Moreover a 300m tall broadcast tower, which is still present today, is a major landmark of the site.
Critical technical issues
A stadium of Olympic importance should respond with corresponding attention to the primary functions it hosts.
Orientation to sun and wind have to ensure equitable outdoor conditions for all competitors.
Accommodation and transport should be provided for many thousands of visitors.
Critical technical issues continued
Two questions dominated this project:
The first issue that arose was speed of construction. Deadlines were absolute and the time line for developing the huge site (including the Olympic Village) was short. Speed of construction and the risk of delays would have to be considered.
Second, what would happen to the complex after the Olympics? Given the costs associated with such a grand occasion and the extensive facilities that would remain, their future use had to be designed for. A temporary structure would be insufficient, and a monumental one would be a perpetual burden.
Despite Munich’s temperate weather, the design of a cable net roof structure had to address two critical factors: wind and snow. Freezing rain, snow or hail falls an average of 75 days per year in Munich, and wind gushes can exceed 120 km/h during stormy weather.
Given the climate conditions in Munich and especially the prevailing wind direction, both the tensile roof and the main seating area are oriented at the western edge. Approximately 65% of the stadium’s visitors are thus given shelter from the natural elements.
Without doubt the most remarkable feature of the stadium and the adjacent buildings is the tensile roof structure. It has become not only a landmark for the city of Munich, but has been a precedent for many more innovations in this field of study in later years. It is especially the size and the grandeur of the roof which has inspired many architects and designers. The roof grid over the main stadium is formed by nine saddle-shaped nets of 25mm steel cables spaced in a 762mm square grid. The saddle spans up to 65m and reaches a maximum height of 58m. The nets are supported over the seating areas by eight tapering masts behind the stadium, ranging from 50 to 70m high. Smaller bow-shaped nets connect the larger membranes and wrap around the supporting masts.
The cable nets are doubly curved. The resulting double-curved saddle shape prevents the canopies from easily fluttering in the wind. The total length of steel cable in the complex exceeds 408km and tension loads in the cable net are as much as 5000 tons. Originally the foundation design was intended to consist of pre-stressed anchors. Local code officials however insisted on more conservative piers to provide stability. In some cases these piers are as much as 18m deep and 6m wide. These enormous foundations were required to resist the tremendous tensile stresses in the cable network and the live loads imposed by winds across and under the open structures.
Since this project has been executed before our current digital age, all of the calculations had been done by hand. Most of the engineering was also the result of practical experiments, mostly conducted by Frei Otto himself, and based on models in varying scales.
Otto started with models of the roof at a 1:125 scale. He measured the mechanical forces in the individual wires of the net with gauges he had developed himself. Several fixed cameras recorded both the loaded and unloaded shape of the model for comparative measurements.
As soon as these experiments offered the necessary insight in how these constructions worked and reacted, larger models were built and hand calculations were performed for verification. Therefore, architects and engineers used drawings on a 1:10 scale, resulting in 3.800 sqm of drawings.
Frei otto has designed a chair depending on his lightweight and membrane design. It was designed in 1967. Made by Karl Fröscher & Co., Steinheim/ Murr . The concept behind the chair design as we said on lightweight structure.
First he used the old materials of tents : Beechwood, , dark brown leather. He put the leather on the chair as a tent structure. He had put iron bolt and screws from the bottom to hold it strong so anyone could sit. The chair is light you can left it easily as a lightweight structure in it. The chair is dismountable and stackable. It is styled for the German pavilion at the Montreal world exposition .
This is a short video documenting the process in which we came up with this final chair.
Thank You for Watching
Dr. Samer Al-Ratrout
Modern Foundations of Architecture
Frei Otto's vision is as much alive as it was fifty years ago when he began to realize his first tent constructions. Apart of being considered an engineer, architect and inventor, Otto likes to think of himself as a natural scientist and experimental physicist. His works offer an inexhaustible source of inspiration and reflection. Designing more than 200 projects, he feels proud telling: 'I have built little. But I have built many castles in the air.' Quotes “I always try to think three dimensionally. The interior eye of the brain should not be flat but three dimensional so that everything is an object in space. We are not living in a two dimensional world.”
“Lightweight building” and "liberation" are linked for Frei Otto as well, but unlike many other advocates of programmatic Modernism he did not believe that transparent material or lightweight constructions alone can improve the world we live in, as "constructions are not bound to scale."
For Frei Otto, lightweight construction does not just mean minimizing mass, materials and energy, but always building adaptably, changeably and thus "ephemerally".
Frei Otto envisages “That light, flexible architecture might bring about a new and open society”.
The ascetic architect falls into astonishing dreams of "sensual architecture" as part of these visions, of a "delicate, heavenly collage on the theme of peace and love", or of building a kind of "love pavilion", as ultimately for Frei Otto work on mankind's earth leads to "peaceful love-architecture " in a "happy cultural landscape" . A dream that he does at least dream, unlike most architects, as for him "visionary imagination is never utopian".
Frei Otto is determined for the rejection of any form of heavy, solid. Earthbound building, which was associated not just for him, with German sentimentality about the homeland and the Nazistyle cult of blood and soil. Also he was based on his experiences in the National Socialist period, when the German architectural elite met in Darmstadt in 1951 for a discussion on "man and space".
The tents seemed simple and modest, and yet they were signs of technical perfection. The open spaces with fluent transitions to the surrounding area drew visitors in and did not keep them captive. "A gentle roof like a cloudscape" was Frei Otto's poetic image for the vision of a peacefully cheerful harmony between protective roof landscape and people, and at the same time invoked the mobility and transience of the tent structures
For him, this work on natural constructions is part of a rational form-finding process following natural laws, but it is also part of a larger vision directed at a peaceful and free society in harmony with itself and nature.
Frei Otto's approach towards architecture was more of a practical and experimental formulation rather than an artistic one. He was a fighter pilot ,he loved the lightness and flying in the air. That’s what attracted him to lightweight structure .
Even his sketches it was all about structure and emphasized
This is a path network by Frei Otto .we can observe clearly he did not have an artistic sense, his main focus was on the details, function, structure and materials.
Formativity accounts for the process of artistic creation considering both invention and realization simultaneously: “to form means to invent the work and at the same time the way to make it”. So, the artist invents not only the work but also its laws, and he must abide by the internal coherence of the work he is creating. “If it is true that the artist does not succeed if he does not do the work’s will, it is not less true that he himself creates. Therefore, there is a dialectic polarity between the artist’s activity and the work’s intentionality, between the person’s free initiative and the immanent teleology of form”. The artistic activity thus appears both as “freedom and need, artist’s work and work’s will, adventure and determination: in one word, trial and orderly realization”.
“Self-formation” and “Natural Constructions” are subjects that need a great deal of commitment. Research into them needs strong collective leadership. It is endangered if the researchers involved think exclusively of their own narrow subject area, if they forget that they must always see things as a whole. Work on the subject of “Natural Constructions” goes on. What has been done so far is only a tiny part of what has to be done. The most important, as yet still provisional, result is a new interpretation of life’s origin and the acquisition of form. Future work requires insights into the formation of objects, of emergence from anunordered state, of creation. It must occur through objective, level-headed research with a clear aim. “
Architect Frei Otto introduced the concept of “form finding” in opposition to the shaping of forms which in his opinion can only result in a deformation. He instead wanted to find, to explore and to optimize form. Today, methods of light construction are being optimized by means of adaptive structural systems into an ultra-light construction. In this way, geometries developed using the principles of form finding demonstrate high structural performance together with high material efficiency. Concurrently, there has been an emergence of seemingly or factually arbitrary forms in contemporary architecture.
Finding Form Philosophy
How free, how accidental should or may architectural form be?
Which processes lead to form? Which considerations influence the process of design?
What role does the “Design Tool” play?
Are there aesthetic and ethical criteria, which can be influential to form?
Experimenting with Soap Bubbles
His experiments with soap bubbles With grain heaps or with viscous liquid embranes, or his tests to investigate branching structures, folds or antifunicular forms are some of the natural processes which have drawn Frei Otto’s attention, with the aim of observing the forms that were generating and unravel their own logic. All this has revealed in this.
Frei Otto also faced, for educational purposes, the task to make up a system of categories that should account for form. His target was both ambitious and utopian. The point was to find a method that should be valid for all known objects, in order to cast some light on the wholeness of the infinite diversity of forms of objects surrounding us, trying to establish a certain order and a common ground in the universe of forms. In spite of being aware about the impossibility both to reach a conclusive systematization and to set up a comprehensive order on the infinite, the intention was to include in this systematization of form not only the objects created by man through technology and art, but also the objects of inanimate nature, animate nature and dead nature, embracing all scales and drawing common principles.
Frei Otto’s shape-design interest was highly based in the investigation of natural forms and their origin, with the purpose to create forms of the greatest structural efficiency and minimum use of materials. For this, he used multiple physical form-finding models, like soap films, sprung chains or hanging chains, in order to generate minimal surface tension structures, cable-nets or optimum compression shapes.
Harmony & Nature
An earth for mankind sums up man's earthly habitat”. It is the architect's job to work on “sustaining the habitat” that includes all the realms of man and nature: “I am constantly amazed that even colleagues cannot see the wonderful image of this earth.” Only Bruno Taut, shortly after the First World War, formulated a similar vision of the earth, calling it a “good dwelling” for all mankind”
Initial concept To avoid rigid, rectangular shapes emerging from the design process, as tends to happen when planning is done by means of drawing boards and T-squares, Behnisch and his team evolved the basic design concept using the softest and most malleable of all media: a sand model.For the protecting umbrellas Behnisch wanted the kind of lightweight, translucent skin used at Expo '67. He therefore brought Frei Otto and Leonhardt & Andrä into the design team. The original competition design showed a single large roof supported by a few masts, and anchored at the edges
Design developmentIn the early 1970s sophisticated computer programs were not yet available for cable-net surface design. As with the Expo '67 designs, mathematical calculations had to be based on preliminary form-finding using physical models - though the large, permanent Munich roofs posed a much more difficult design challenge than the temporary canopies at Montreal.The design development process therefore started with the construction of 1:125 scale models theat were exactly proportional both in geometry and in elasticity to the envisaged full sized structures.This was followed by an intensive programme of more detailed model-making, computation and verification, made all the more impressive by the fact that the team was moving into virtually unexplored territory, almost making up the science as it went along.
Located in Berlin ,Germany
Planned and designed by Frei Otto and Herman Kendel
Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Architect: OHO Joint Venture, Atelier Frei Otto, Buro
Other Key Buildings:-
Located at Montreal, Canada,
Designed by Frei Otto with Rolf Gutbrod. Year 1967
To conclude , Frei Otto brought new perspective to architecture from which he upgraded the approaches and techniques of several fields of engineering particularly structural and architecture. Which foreshadowed a glimpse of modernization in spanning the future. The strategy of dealing with the implementation of architecture in harmony with its context, landscape and interior using lightweight structure with mastered tranquility and contentment portrayed a new perception which influenced some of the most significant architects worldwide. Even now Frei otto is working on bringing ideas to the world. He has lead so many years in architecture in which architecture wouldn't have evolved the way it has without him.
The purpose of using form-finding models was to reduce to the minimum bending stresses in the timber grid shell under self weight, transforming in the process the rectangles of the initial grid into rhombus, which adapted more easily to the complex free curve geometry. However, the final geometrical design and structural behavior control required the use of computer analysis too. The result is a spectacular continuous shell spanning a maximum of 80 meters with high structural efficiency
Frei Otto believed that structure had to solve important and complex geometrical and construction constraints, while maintaining the architectural idea of a roof as light and “invisible” as possible: the roof had to match the geometry of the rectangular outer perimeter and the central circle, with very tight limits for the height,
Dematerialization and lightweight construction had been under discussion. Ever since industrialization and the increased use of steel and glass in buildings as indicators of modernization and of construction that is calculated in terms of building statics and planned economically, Sigfried
Giedion and other architectural historians have constructed a history of the development of modern architecture from the increasing dematerialization that could be linked with the disappearance of historical forms.
The dematerialization of objects or equipment as a “liberation of human beings was celebrated at the Bauhaus as well. And seen as parallel with the development of mobile international human beings. Then, after the war dematerialization was understood as using a great deal of glass, and transparency served as a usual vague statement resisting the heavy massive architecture of the NS period. But other than Frei Otto, very few people developed a philosophy of light weight construction with social connections.
We need form-generation models that recognize the laws of physics and are able to create “minimum” surfaces for compression and bending as well as tension. And we need to extend the virtual building model to virtual construction – not just conception – so that the way a building is fabricated and erected becomes as important a part of design as its efficient use of materials. This will help us create buildings that will conserve material and energy and hence go some way towards meeting today’s pressing need – conservation of our global resources.
Frei Otto was influenced by Gaudi's work on the suspension model of “Colonia Guell” he used the suspended model method quite often in his experiments. Also, they both were interested in mastering materials. Frei Otto used Gaudi’s forms in the construction of the Munich Olympic Stadium.
Grid shells with continuous elastic rods have the advantages to generate curved spaces with uniform members and joints. The idea was first introduced by the physician Hook in the 17th century, further developed by the architect Gaudi in the 18th, and applied in the form-findings of grid shells by Frei Otto in 1970s. It has the advantage to adapt to free form surfaces using timber.
Honda prize for “Architecture and Nature”, Honda Foundation, Tokyo, Japan. 1990.
Wolf Prize in Architecture, Israel. 1997.
Aga Khan Award for Architecture. 1998.
Special prize of the VII International Biennale for Architecture in Buenos Aires, Brazil, for his lifework. 2000.
Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). 2005.
Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. 2006.
Premium Imperial award architecture. 2006.