Design of self-supporting surfaces

E. Vouga, M. H÷biger, J. Wallner and H. Pottmann


Self-supporting masonry is one of the most ancient and elegant techniques for building curved shapes. Because of the very geometric nature of their failure, analyzing and modeling such structures is more a geometry processing problem than one of classical continuum mechanics. This paper uses the thrust network method of analysis and presents an iterative nonlinear optimization algorithm for efficiently approximating freeform shapes by self-supporting ones. The rich geometry of thrust networks leads us to close connections between diverse topics in discrete differential geometry, such as a finite-element discretization of the Airy stress potential, perfect graph Laplacians, and computing admissible loads via curvatures of polyhedral surfaces. This geometric viewpoint allows us, in particular, to remesh self-supporting shapes by self-supporting quad meshes with planar faces, and leads to another application of the theory: steel/glass constructions with low moments in nodes.


        author="Etienne Vouga and Mathias H{\"o}binger 
                and Johannes Wallner and Helmut Pottmann", 
        title="Design of Self-Supporting surfaces", 
        journal="ACM Trans. Graphics", 
        number = 4, 
        pages = "\#87, 1--11", 
        note="Proc. SIGGRAPH", 
        url = "", 
        doi = "",