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Evaluating Structural Form: Is It Sculpture, Architecture Or Structure?

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Technical Issues in Architectural Engineering I

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.693.1 - 12.693.25



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Paper Authors

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Edmond Saliklis California Polytechnic State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Evaluating Structural Form: Is it sculpture, architecture or structure?


The purpose of this paper is to discuss the idea of a continuum between sculptural form, architectural form and structural form. A linkage between the various forms will be proposed, and several scholarly views on this subject will be presented. Then, this paper will describe a brief web-based survey which tested people’s subjective categorization of various sculptural, architectural and structural forms. The target audience of the web- based survey was college students interested in building design and high school students. Finally, this paper will analyze whether or not presenting the respondents with the idea of a proposed continuum between such forms left a lasting impression on them.

A Continuum of Form

Professor David Billington has proposed that sculptural form, architectural form and structural form are linked in a continuum1. All three of these forms are designed, three dimensional structures. Certainly the dividing lines between them can be blurred. Yet there are hallmarks defining each of these three types of form that can be generally agreed upon.

Sculptural form is created by an artist who is interested in exploring aesthetic and formal possibilities in three dimensions. The Swiss architect and Bauhaus artist Max Bill said that the art form of sculpture can be “essentially identifiable as invention…the invention of a means of expression”2. Sculptural form can be figurative, for example it can represent some other form. Other sculptures look random, with only the slightest sign that the form was made by an artist. Yet a common denominator in sculptural form is that it is meant to be an aesthetic work, not a functional structure. And it must be three dimensional, and stable and strong enough to carry its own weight.

Architectural form is

dictated by architectural purposes, such as the practicalities of spatial

organization and control of the flow of occupants. Architectural form is

also concerned with the sense of space a structure creates, its symbolism

and its relationship to its setting”3.

Certainly architectural form can lean toward sculptural form as in the case where architectural “elements are exaggerated or when forms reflect a nonefficient use of

Saliklis, E. (2007, June), Evaluating Structural Form: Is It Sculpture, Architecture Or Structure? Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1640

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