Beyond Bending - Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

Invited for the 15th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, curated by Alejandro Aravena, “Beyond Bending” is a joint project of the Block Research Group at ETH Zurich and Ochsendorf, DeJong & Block (John Ochsendorf being Prof. at the MIT, Matthew DeJong at University of Cambridge) with The Escobedo Group. Through various visual and constructed elements, the exhibition advocates for the logic of compression-only forms, not only because of their uniquely expressive aesthetics but also because of their potential to achieve efficiency and stability while curbing material waste.

Reporting from the Front - 15th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia

Alejandro Aravena, founding partner of ELEMENTAL and Pritzker Prize Laureate 2016, has been appointed as curator of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. Aravena‘s chosen theme, “Reporting from the Front” encourages the invited participants – architects and practitioners from around the world - to describe not only the battles they are waging but, more importantly, the results they are producing. As Aravena summarizes it, “We would like to present cases that, despite the difficulties, instead of resignation or bitterness, propose and do something. We would like to show that in the permanent debate about the quality of the built environment, there is not only need but also room for action”.

Beyond Bending - Learning from the past to design a better future

Throughout history, master builders have discovered expressive forms through the constraints of economy, efficiency and elegance. There is much to learn from the architectural and structural principles they developed.

Novel structural design tools that extend traditional graphical methods to three dimensions allow designers to discover a vast range of possible forms in compression. By better understanding the flow of compressive forces in three dimensions, excess steel can be eliminated, natural resources can be conserved, and humble materials like earth and stone can be reimagined for the future.

By combining methods from the past with new technologies and fabrication techniques, this installation advocates for the logic of compression-only forms. It offers possibilities to move beyond the slab, beyond the dome, beyond free-form, and ultimately beyond bending.

Read all exhibtion texts here.

Read more about the Armadillo Vault here.

Virtual tour

Now that the Biennale closed its doors, explore the exhibtion virtually!


Learn more about the research and development behind the exhibition in the book "Beyond Bending: Reimagining Compression Shells", published with Edition DETAIL.

Order now at amazon.com (on sale!), amazon.co.uk (on sale!) or amazon.de!

Credits "Beyond Bending" exhibtion


  • Philippe Block, John Ochsendorf


  • Philippe Block, John Ochsendorf, Tom Van Mele, Noelle Paulson


  • Block Research Group, ETH Zurich - Philippe Block, Edyta Augustynowicz, Matthias Rippmann



  • Lichtkompetenz
  • Artemide


  • Kathy and David Escobedo
  • ETH Zurich - Department of Architecture
  • MIT - School of Architecture + Planning
  • NCCR Digital Fabrication
  • Swiss Arts Council - Pro Helvetia
  • Artemide

Credits objects exhibition

Beyond the slab I

  • Salvador Gomis Aviñó, Salvador Tomás Márquez, Jonathan Dessi-Olive, Camilla Mileto, Fernando Vegas López-Manzanares, Javier Gómez Patrocinio, Benjamin Ibarra Sevilla, Universitat Politècnica de València, Fundación José Soriano Ramos, John Ochsendorf

Beyond the slab II

  • Concrete floor: Block Research Group, ETH Zurich - David Pigram, Tomás Méndez Echenagucia, Andrew Liew, Nick Krouwel, Tom Van Mele, Philippe Block
  • 3D-printed floor: Block Research Group, ETH Zurich - Matthias Rippmann, Ursula Frick, Andrew Liew, Tom Van Mele, Philippe Block

Beyond the dome

  • Block Research Group, ETH Zurich - Matthias Rippmann, Robin Oval, Tomás Méndez Echenagucia, Tom Van Mele, Philippe Block

Beyond freeform - Armadillo Vault

  • Structural design & Architectural geometry: Block Research Group, ETH Zurich - Philippe Block, Tom Van Mele, Matthias Rippmann, Edyta Augustynowicz, Cristián Calvo Barentin, Tomás Méndez Echenagucia, Mariana Popescu, Andrew Liew, Anna Maragkoudaki, Ursula Frick
  • Structural engineering: Ochsendorf DeJong & Block (ODB Engineering) - Matthew DeJong, John Ochsendorf, Philippe Block, Anjali Mehrotra
  • Fabrication & Construction: The Escobedo Group - David Escobedo, Matthew Escobedo, Salvador Crisanto, John Curry, Francisco Tovar Yebra, Joyce I-Chin Chen, Adam Bath, Hector Betancourt, Luis Rivera, Antonio Rivera, Carlos Rivera, Carlos Zuniga Rivera, Samuel Rivera, Jairo Rivera, Humberto Rivera, Jesus Rosales, Dario Rivera


There is no linked research.


Block P., Van Mele T., Rippmann M. and Paulson N.Beyond Bending - Reimagining Compression Shells,Edition DETAIL,Munich,2017 (October).
Block P., Van Mele T., Rippmann M., DeJong M., Ochsendorf J., Escobedo M. and Escobedo D.Armadillo Vault - An extreme discrete stone shell,DETAIL,10: 940-942,2016 (October).Issue on 'Roof structures'.


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