Dr. Tom Van Mele is Senior Scientist and co-director at the Block Research Group (BRG) of the Institute of Technology in Architecture at ETH Zurich, where he leads the computational and technical developments, supervises the postdoc team, and advises and supports the PhD candidates on a day-to-day basis. Tom is the lead developer of COMPAS, the open-source computational framework for collaboration and research in architecture, structures and digital fabrication. He is project lead of the HiLo unit developed by the BRG for NEST, the modular research and innovation building of Empa.
Tom studied architecture and structural engineering at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Brussels, Belgium. In 2008, under the supervision of Prof. Marijke Mollaert, he received his PhD for a dissertation about the “design and analysis of retractable roofs that have a moveable supporting structure and multiple stable configurations”. After two years spent in New York, USA, during which he worked as a freelance architect, structural engineer, and web developer, Tom joined the BRG in 2010 as a postdoctoral researcher to develop the teaching platform eQUILIBRIUM. This online interactive environment for graphic statics-based structural design was developed with the support an ETH Innovedum grant, the first of three that Tom helped to obtain as part of the BRG.
Since arriving in Switzerland, Tom has contributed to numerous peer-reviewed publications, co-authored the book “Beyond Bending: Reimagining compressions shells ”, and taught several workshops at ETH, other universities and at international conferences. He has been an active reviewer for international peer-reviewed journals, and contributed significantly to the advancement of computational tools and methods in the fields of Architectural Geometry, Structural Design and Digital Fabrication.
Tom is an expert in graphic statics, graphical design and analysis techniques, computational form finding and optimisation, data structures, scientific programming and web technologies. From the start, his technical and computational developments have formed the backbone of the day-to-day research in the BRG and of multiple of its flagship projects, including the Droneport and the Armadillo Vault, both presented at the 2016 Architecture Biennale in Venice, and, most recently, the NEST HiLo roof prototype completed in the Robotc Fabrication Lab at ETH Zurich in 2017.
Tom’s technical and computational developments have recently been consolidated into COMPAS, an open source COMPutational framework for collaboration and research in Architecture and Structures. COMPAS was released to the scientific community in 2017 and will form the basis for collaborative research within the Swiss National Centre for Competence in Research (NCCR) for “Digital Fabrication”.