Polyhedral Structures Lab (PSL) is a research unit concentrating on advancing structural geometry and construction technologies within the Advanced Research & Innovation Lab (ARI) at the School of Design, University of Pennsylvania. ARI is led by Professor and Chair of Architecture Winka Dubbeldam and comprises a wide variety of research groups: the Autonomous Manufacturing Lab (Assistant Professor of Architecture Robert Stuart-Smith), the Polyhedral Structures Lab or PSL (Assistant Professor of Architecture Masoud Akbarzadeh), and the Baroque Topologies Lab (Associate Professor of Architecture Andrew Saunders), with additional initiatives in development.
PSL is an interdisciplinary research lab connecting architecture, structural engineering, computer science, mathematics and material science to enrich architectural geometry and to reconcile function, form, and technology. PSL aims to bridge the gap between architecture and structural design using geometry, which is considered the common language between these two inextricable disciplines. At PSL we intend to push the boundaries of research in the field of architectural technology, and we are continually looking for teams and individuals to interact with across various academic disciplines.
PSL is highly interested in collaborating with professional practices and industrial partners to apply the innovative research in practice and construction industries. Some of the current companies and industrial partners include SOM, Summum, Sika, Quarra Stone, and 3M.
The research interests of the lab include but not limited to innovative construction techniques, robotic fabrication, computational design, 2D/3D Graphic statics, geometry-based structural design techniques, form-finding techniques, lightweight structures, spatial structures, structural details, and much more.
Geometric Structural Design Methods
One of the main concentrations of the lab is to research and contribute to the geometry-based structural design methods for its intuitive characteristic and apply them in the design and fabrication of efficient, elegant, and non-conventional structural forms. Geometry-based structural design methods have a history as early as the sixteenth century, and they continue to be used and developed until today. Graphic statics is a renowned method that has been developed and practiced by many researchers, engineers, and architects since 1864. Masoud’s Ph.D. research, 3D Graphic Statics using Reciprocal Polyhedral Diagrams, has started a new direction in the development of the existing methods of graphic statics in three dimensions based on a historic proposition by Rankine in Philosophical Magazine in 1864.
Computational methods are at the core of our research projects from theory to construction. We constantly develop computational tools and methods relevant to our research. We borrow concepts and from mathematics, geometry, and computer science and adapt them for design research applications.
Robotic/Innovative Fabrication Research
The state-of-the-art robotic facilities at PennDesign allows pushing the boundaries of conventional construction methods and develop new fabrication techniques for challenging geometries and structural systems.
We are interested in revisiting the conventional construction materials and detailing and devise innovative techniques to go beyond the existing construction/assembly methods.