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Friday, September 11, 2009


A few months ago the school of architecture and urban planning of the Ricardo Palma University in Lima-Peru was invited to participate in the 2nd international contest proposed by ILAFA (latinamerican institute of iron and steel) about the use of steel in architecture. This year more precisely, an airport.

Several teams leaded by professors were assembled. Professor Arch. Felix Mayorca, who is in charge of the Virtual Design workshop class gathered a team in which I was very honored to form part of. We were 6 in the group, but after a couple of weeks we ended up being 4: Professor Arch. Walter Leon(project director), Willy Maita, Paolo Diaz and Luis Enrque Cueva(me). Each of us in charge of our areas of expertise. By the way the constest is not due yet, but our project made it so far to finalist for the national competition

I was in charge of the general concept idea, structural innovation and the main aesthetic design.

So lets cut to the point, it´s all about steel. We had to eat, drink and think steel, day and night investigating about the composition and capabilities of this very versatile material.

The concept was born from the oldest force in the universe that we, architects, deal with every day in matters of design: GRAVITY. Which is nothing more than simple magnetism. So we had to know what was going on inside the minds of Frederick Gauss, Nikkola Tesla, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Nicholas Copernico, Galileo Galilei, Steven Hawkings and many others. Believe me when I say it was not easy to comprehend the complexity of the theories and their assumptions, applications and possible variations.

I managed to keep it simple. Simple is good, i learned this from my wife, she is always right. So after a few minutes drawing nonsense on a napkin I decided to go back and bring some old friends from past school projects: my magnets. I had 2 attempts of includding magnets in my designs in the past, both of them failed. But the idea was there, waiting.

I ended up with 3 words in my mind: magnetism, earthquake and steel. Now because Peru is located in the Ring of Fire (volcano belt), is why "earthquake" kicks in to complicate things a little.

So I posted a Hypotesis: "Can Architecture function as a giant shock but instead of having springs or a hydraulic system, can it work with magnetic fields?". After a small simple experiment the answer was Yes. Magnetic fields of the same pole will undoubtly reject one another so the space between them creates the lift needed to carry a structure. Although horizontal displacement was not solved at this point, the idea started taking shape. Trial and error, thats all it takes.

Obviously electromagnetism was considered as part of the tools needed, but human error would not let me depend on an electric flux for structural design, besides the amount of electricity needed just wasn´t compatible with what the planet needs nowadays.

Permanent magnets were chosen to star in this new construction system. Therefore this is the startpoint for the main structural skeleton design. After a few sketches I realized anything and almost everything could include magnetic fields in the design. From a simple refrigirator souvenir to a stadium.

Cables, beams, foundations, roofs, platforms, bridges, walls, stairs, windows, railings, and every other architectural element was concieved under this concept. I learned that every time you want to solve a problem, you should ask nature for guidance.

I will keep posting updates on my study of MAGNETIC ARCHITECTURE.

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