The creation of structures involves two main stages: design and construction.
Building structures emerged to accommodate human demand for shelter from the natural environment. In ancient times, the form of “architecture,” as we call it today, was simply a result of creating enclosed space through a repeating effort of piling up available materials. With minimal awareness toward aesthetics and symbolism, ancient people focused on building simple, yet reliable, structures based on their instinct and experience. During this time, ease of construction overrode aesthetics as the primary concern for creating structures.
As self-awareness formed and experience accumulated through generations of practice turned into knowledge, the activity of building developed from an instinct into a craft. The demand for shelter was no longer the mere purpose for constructing structures. Instead, many were deliberately produced with particular forms to indicate culture, belief, and social status. The process of “architecture” began to formalize as planning and design became an important step during the creation of structures.
As civilization advanced over time, architecture evolved from being considered solely as a physical enclosure to a work of art and representation of culture and technology. The form of architecture became diverse, no longer confined to regular geometries and ordinary materials. In recent decades, the further development of modern engineering knowledge and digital design brought about the postmodern free-form architecture. However, the excellence in aesthetics is often accompanied by the complexity in construction. Customized fabrication and assembly may become necessary in order to achieve certain architectural forms, which are often costly and time consuming.
Architecture composed of regular and repetitive elements are often structurally efficient and resolve the concern of budget and ease of construction. But the aesthetic results can be very divergent: while many are considered mediocre for lacking a statement and visual impact, few became remarkable for comprehending minimalism and forming visual impact through an extraordinary sense of order.
Today, the practice of the architecture industry has been brought up to a higher standard under various engineering, economic, and social demands. Design and construction are becoming one integrated process for many new projects, where architects and engineers are challenged to create a synergy of elegance, efficiency, economy, and sustainability. The technique of structural repetition offers improved potential for the future of the industry. The associated construction and economic advantages are still widely recognized and desired, especially with the recent development of prefabrication and modularity. However, better design techniques need to be explored to leverage the aesthetics of structural repetition toward the contemporary architectural standard.
The objective of this research was to identify the critical modular design techniques that promote both aesthetics and constructability. Forty selected structural projects across Asia, Latin America, and Europe were studied through literature and site visits. While they vary in architectural style, function, material, age, and surrounding environment, the selected projects demonstrate extraordinary overall results brought forth by the repetition of structural modules. The research was also supported by a number of universities, research institutes, and design firms that allowed viewing of models and drawings, as well as interviews regarding design and research experience.
This report includes the description of the selected projects through which the key modular design techniques are illustrated. By demonstrating the advantages and potential associated with applying the techniques, the report is presented to the architectural and engineering profession to promote structural repetition and modularity for the future and to help designers to achieve the modern industry’s standard by creating more elegant, efficient, economical, and easy-to-build structures.