Patchwork Gridshells: Using Modularity to Facilitate Prefabrication and Simplify Construction

Philippe Charest, Paul Shepherd, Richard Harris, Andre Potvin, Claude Demers, Sylvain Menard

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Modern architectural design has seen a shift towards iconic doubly-curved envelopes enclosing large column-free spaces. Gridshells have long been considered an efficient solution to such designs, but their actual use in practice has not spread worldwide. For elastic gridshells, their advantages in terms of substantial material savings can often be overshadowed by the significant challenges associated with their construction. Similarly, for rigid gridshells, the manufacture of a large number of different members and nodal connections is often a barrier to their implementation. This paper proposes an effective way of designing, fabricating and erecting gridshells. The “Patchwork Gridshell” consists of a number of efficient elastic gridshell patches assembled using rigid gridshell frames. It can easily generate a number of different configurations, use a wide range of materials, and allows more architectural expression of practical long-span forms. The benefits of combining the ingenuously simple efficiency of elastic lattices and the power of digital fabrication are demonstrated by digitally rebuilding four alternative configurations of the Japan Pavilion of the Hanover Expo 2000 as a case study. The result is a flexible digital workflow which creates large column-free spaces that are capable of being constructed efficiently by nonspecialist contractors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-188
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures
Issue number3
Early online date15 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2019


  • Computer aided design
  • Construction methods
  • Gridshells
  • Structural design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Mechanical Engineering


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