Structure, architecture and aesthetics

Be it building or bridge, and regardless of equipment or decorative elements to be added, the definition of the structure signifies an architectonic form is created. Evidently, equilibrium and resistance govern the structure, but the resulting structure articulates an architectonic concept; and there is no doubt that the aesthetic value of that structure refers to its architectonic form.

The design process of a building or bridge is the development of a manifold course of decisions and options aiming at a multi-objective optimization. Talent in design is displayed in the weight given to each factor and in the definition of the multi-objective optimization criterion, but art comes in the quite irrational and subjective synthesis of so many factors and objectives.

Structural Engineers are good at weighing the design factors and at balancing the optimization multi-objectives but fill uncomfortable at the irrational and subjective parts of the synthesis. On the contrary, Architects are very able at the irrational and subjective parts of the synthesis and understand better dimensions and proportions in space. Moreover, since Architects know little of the structural designing factors, they feel free at a more speculative design approach.

But aesthetics synthesizes a variety of factors, most of them subjective in nature. Thus, aesthetics can be neither a design factor nor an explicit component in the design multi-purpose objective of building or bridge.

António Adão da Fonseca is a civil engineer specialized in complex structures, having designed several singular bridges and buildings. He graduated from Faculty of Engineering of Porto University (FEUP) and got his Ph.D. in Structural Engineering from Imperial College of Science and Technology, University of London. He is currently Professor at FEUP and Visiting Professor at Faculty of Architecture of Autonomous University of Lisbon (UAL). Between 1995 and 1998 was President of the College of Civil Engineers in the Portuguese Institute of Engineers. Between 1998 and 2002 was President of the European Council of Civil Engineers. In 2004-2005 was member of the Advisory Council of IPPAR - Portuguese Institute of Architectural Heritage.

António Adão da Fonseca has worked in several projects with Cecil Balmond, namely the Lisbon EXPO’1998 Pavilion of the Seas with Architect Carrilho da Graça, Casa da Musica with Architect Rem Koolhaas, Hannover EXPO’2000 Pavilion of Portugal and Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2005 with Architects Álvaro Siza and Souto de Moura, and Pedro and Ines Footbridge.