Geometric puzzles in the BP office

by Edwin Larkens on March 11, 2011

The imaginary and the real; designing and building the BP Office – [part 3]

From the first design studies for the BP office we were envisioning a building with bent floor shapes and a curved sloping roof. These defining features were relatively easy to sketch out. To make it all buildable in steel, aluminium, glass and concrete while keeping it on budget was a lot harder. The geometries had to be simplified in such a way that the shapes could be translated into flat glass planes, straight steel beams and aluminium profiles and small twists in the concrete slabs and ceiling panels.

One of the hardest puzzles to solve was the curved and twisted glass roof of the atrium. The search started for a suitable mathematical model to achieve the required visual effect. To keep the costs down we needed to use rectangular glass panels in as few different sizes as possible. We discovered that by using the geometric primitive of the cone, the roof can bend and twist, while the panels remain regular. The surface of a cone is made up of straight lines, which come from a single point and together describe a circle. This surface could be achieved with rectangular flat glass panels in a structure of tapered aluminum and steel profiles. The final geometry of the atrium roof is made up of small fluently connected parts of only three different cones.

After setting out these ideas about the geometry we faced our next challenge to apply these in a detailed three dimensional computer drawing from which the brave contractors could start the challenging building process.

Photos Edwin Larkens, 17-2-2011, drawing 23-2-2010

Building completion: May 2011

Links to other posts in this series about the BP office:

Post 1 – Introduction: the exterior and the interior

Post 2 – The origins of the atrium wall

Post 4 – Bridging the atrium

Post 5 – Making a hill

Post 6 – The office habitat

Post 7 – Reflections and refractions

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Vaclav April 5, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Hi Edvin, thanks for letting me know about this blog.
BP looks great, especially the timber wall. Congratulation to all Group A team.
Vaclav

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