Professor Wanda Lewis has used the design process named “form-finding” to come up with a new design for the indestructible bridges. Form-finding draws inspiration from the natural world to come up with the designs for rigid structures.
The structures designed using the form-finding technique, are held up the forces of tension, which implies no bending stress. The presence of bending stress is the major point of weakness in other constructions.
The research of Professor Lewis hints of a future where the buildings and bridges would not come under complex stresses owing to loading. These structures will come with other advantages like longer sustainability, better endurance, and improved protection.
Professor Lewis spent 25 years of her life in researching the forms and shapes present in nature such as the boundary of a tree and foliage and the suspended soap film.
Her research led her to discover that the natural bodies develop simple stress patterns that help them endure the applied external forces.
Professor Lewis thus set to work for the development of a mathematical model to emulate the natural designs that generate simple stress patterns. Professor Lewis claims:
“nature’s design principles cannot be matched by conventional engineering design.”
She has taken to physical form-finding experiments to explain and demonstrate her mathematical models. In one instance, she suspended a piece of fabric and allowed it to assume its natural, minimum energy shape under the force of gravity. Next, the fabric was frozen solid whereby she determined the coordinates of the shape of the fabric by simulating the gravitational forces applied to it.
Professor Lewis argues that classical structures are only aesthetically sound, not structurally!
“Aesthetics is an important aspect of any design, and we have been programmed to view some shapes, such as circular arches or spherical domes as aesthetic. We often build them regardless of the fact that they generate complex stresses, and are, therefore, structurally inefficient.”
It is interesting to note that the shape and design of an optimal arch is a historical debate.
From the catenary form bridge proposed by Robert Hook to the ed parabola, history is filled with design proposals for bridge arches. All these bridge arches can only take specified loads.
As opposed to the classical theories, the work of Professor Lewis has come up with a revolutionary way to find out the best arch design for general loading.
Question is, would it work in practical world applications? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.