ALL PRAISE TO FREI OTTO

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OLYMPIC COMPLEX, FREI OTTO AND GUNTHER BEHNISCH ARCHITECTS 1972

FREI OTTO WAS A HUGE POSITIVE INFLUENCE ON ME AS AN ARCHITECT.

AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH MY STUDENTS AT COPPER MOUNTAIN COLLEGE WERE DOING A HYPERBOLIC PROJECT THAT FREI USED TO GET MAXIMUM CURVATURE FOR HIS TENSION STRUCTURES, DERIVATIVE FROM HIS SOAP BUBBLES STUDIES. ANOTHER STUDENT DOING A REPORT ON FREI OTTO.

SO TO HEAR OF HIS DEATH WAS A TRAGEDY AND SHOCK, BUT HE LEFT A WEALTH OF PUBLISHED INFORMATION AND A LIFE TO EMULATE.

FREI OTTO THE ARCHITECT ENGINEER INVENTOR THAT DID METICULOUS RESEARCH AND UNIQUE INVENTIVE LIGHT WEIGHT STRUCTURES, THAT WERE LATER PICKED UP BY THE INDUSTRY AND COMMERCIALIZED .

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JAPAN PAVILION IN HANOVER, SHUGERU BAN AND FREI OTTO AND 2000

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MANNHEIUM MULTIHALLE 1975 FREI OTTO AND ARUP

SHIGERU BAN THE WINNER OF THE 2014 PRITZKER PRIZE, AND STUDENT OF MINE WAS SMART ENOUGH TO RECOGNIZE THE GENIUS OF FRI OTTO AND I AM SURE HE WAS INFLUENTIAL IN GETTING FREI OTTO THE PRITZER PRIZE THIS YEAR . A BIT LATE IN FREI OTTO’S CAREER. BUT WELL DESERVED.

BAN BROUGHT IN FREI TO COLABORATE FOR THE JAPAN PAVILION IN HANOVER. A COMBINATION OF A LATTICE STRUCTURES WITH A TENSILE SKIN. BAN’S GOLF CLUB LATTICE STRUCTURE IN KOREA WAS DEFINITELY INFLUENCED BY FREI OTTO.

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HAESLEY NINE BRIDGES GOLF CLUB HOUSE, KOREA 2010 SHUGERU BAN

THE ARCHITECTURAL PROFESSION NEVER GAVE FREI OTTO THE CREDIT HE DESERVED. THE LIGHT WEIGHT STRUCTURE APPROACH IS JUST RECENTLY BEING DISCOVERED TO HAVE ADVANTAGES OF BEING COST EFFECTIVE AND HAVING THE SENSUAL LOOK.

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GERMAN PAVILLION EXPO 67 FREI OTTO ARCHITECT

AFTER FINISHING .MY MASTERS IN ARCHITECTURE AT CRANBOOK ACADEMY OF ART IN 1967 , I WENT WITH MY WIFE JOANNE AND TWO YOUNG DAUGHTERS CHRISTINE AND LUCIA TO THE CANADIAN EXPO 67 IN TORONTO THAT SUMMER. THERE WERE MANY INTRIGUING STRUCTURES INCLUDING MOSHE SAFDIE’S HABITAT 67, BUCK MINISTER FULLERS’S HUGE DOME FOR THE USA, THE CORE TEN STEEL SPACE FRAME THEME BUILDING BY JEFFERY LINSEY, AND OF COURSE GERMANY’S TENSILE STRUCTURE BY FREI OTTO.

I WAS ALL HYPED TO SEE FREI OTTO’S TENT AND FROM THE OUTSIDE IT WAS ALL THAT IT WAS CRACKED UP TO BE. THE SKIN SLUNG UNDER A TENSILE STEEL NET. IT HAD A HIGH TECH PRICKLY LOOK. THE INSIDE WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT. IT WAS MUCH TOO SMALL. THE AVERAGE CIRCUS TENT WAS BIGGER. NOT THAT THE QUALITY WAS NOT THERE . THE DETAILING IMPECCABLE. THE LIGHTING COMING THROUGH THE MEMBRANE WELL. THE DISPLAYS INSIDE WERE ON SQUARE PALLETS AND DID NOTHING TO REINFORCE THE ROOF DESIGN. I AM SURE FREI HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THAT.

TWO YEARS LATER I USED THE STRUCTURAL PRINCIPLE OF FREI OTTO’S PAVILION TO DO A STADIUM FOR DETROIT. I UPPED THE SCALE AND CHANGED THE PROGRAM, SEE MY BLOG. THE GREAT STADIUM ISSUE.

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DETROIT STADIUM 1969 GLEN HOWARD SMALL, ARCHITECT

IN 1972 I USED THE TENSILE SYSTEM TO DO THE BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE. THIS TIME PULLING IN ON ITSELF TO ELMINATE DEAD MAN ANCHORS TO HOLD IT DOWN LIKE MOST TENSILE STRUCTURES. EVERY SEGMENT IS A HYPERBOLIC MODULAR THAT CREATED THE MAXIMUM EFFICIENT TENSILE SKIN.

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BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE WIRE STUDY MODEL 1969-1972 GLEN HOWARD SMALL, ARCHITECT

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BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE 1969- 1972 GLEN HOWARD SMALL, ARCHITECT

I RECENTLY DOING THE DOWNTOWN TROPISPHERE WITH A TENSILE ROOF. IN 2011 SEE BLOGS DOWNTOWN TROPISPHERE 1, 2, 3

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DOWNTOWN TROPISHERE 2011 GLEN HOWARD SMALL ARCHITECT

FREI OTTO DID PROPOSALS TO SLING A TENSILE ROOF BETWEEN MOUNTAINS. SO HE WAS DEFINITELY PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES.

I FOUND IT INTRIGUING THAT NORMAN FOSTER AND ZAHAD HAFID DID BEAUTIFUL TRIBUTES TO FREI OTTO, TWO SUPERSTARS THAT RESPECTED HIM THAT I ADMIRE. BUT BOTH IGNORING FRE OTTO EARLIER IN THEIR CAREERS. FOSTER KNOWN FOR HIS HIGH TECH BOXES AND ZAHAD FOR THE CLASH AND BANG AND IGNORING NATURE. FREI OTTO WAS AT HIS PEAK IN 1972 WITH HIS MUNICH STADIUM . IT IS ALL ABOUT FOLLOWING TRENDS AND MATURING WITH AGE.

BUT ARCHITECTS IN GENERAL NEVER BOUGHT INTO TENTS AND LIGHT WEIGHT STRUCTURES, AND STILL DO NOT. HOW SAD AND STUPID. I AM SURE IF I ASKED MANY PROMINENT ARCHITECTS TO DRAW A HYPERBOLIC, THEY WOULD BE STUMPED. NO THEY NEVER TOOK MY NATURAL STRUCTURE CLASS AND COULD CARE LESS ABOUT MAKING THE MOST EFFICIENT SHAPE. I DO NOT HEAR THEM GIVING TRIBUTE TO FREI OTTO.

MICHAEL RENDLER, MY FORMER STUDENT AT SCI-ARC AND PARTNER, TELLING ME HIS SON JACK, NOW ATTENDING SCI-ARC FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS, HAD NEVER HEARD OF FREI OTTO UNTIL A FRIEND OF HIS DAD’S CLUED HIM IN. WHAT A SHAME, BUT I SUSPECT MANY ARCHITECTURAL SCHOOLS ARE NOT SAVVY TO HIS INFLUENCES AS WELL.

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Architecture Frei Otto Olympic Stadium Park Germany steel brace braced pulley arena infield seating spectator spectators stands grandstand detail structure mesh stretch stretched  webbing webbed woven tension tense tensed structure structures buildings ro

THE DETAILING FREI OTTO IMPLEMENTED WAS IMPECCABLE. A TRUE GENIUS. ALL IN THE AGE BEFORE COMPUTERS.

MILICA DEDIJER ARCHITECT AND I , MY SECOND WIFE WERE IN MUNICH IN 1972 AND JUMPED THE FENCE TO SEE THE STADIUM COMPLEX UNDER CONSTRUCTION. IT JUST BLEW ME AWAY HOW BEAUTIFUL IT WAS AND HOW THE VARIETY OF DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS WERE PULLED TOGETHER WITH THE OVERALL THEME OF THE ROOF CONSTRUCTION. I WAS DAZZLED, AND STILL AM BY THE SENSUOUS QUALITY OF THE DESIGN. UNIVERSAL BEAUTY FOR SURE. BUT OUR VISIT WAS SHORT LIVED BY THE SECURITY GUARDS RACING AROUND IN THEIR MOTOR SCOOTERS CHASING US OFF THE SITE.

THE SITE WAS A BOMBED OUT AREA OF WORLD WAR TWO AND THE RUBBLE AND HOLES WERE USED TO MOUND THE DIRT TO CREATE THE DIFFERENT STADIUMS. GUNTER BEHNISCH AND FREI OTTO COLLABORATED TO DO THE DESIGN. FREI OTTO A FORMER PILOT AND GUNTER BEHNISCH A SUBMARINE CAPTAIN, SO YOU HAD THE BEST OF THE GERMAN MILITARY BUILDING A STADIUM OF PEACE. NOW GERMANY HAS GOT THEIR ACT TOGETHER AS ONE OF THE MOST PROGRESSIVE COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD.

I TOOK MY SCI-ARC CLASS TO SEE FRI OTTO IN HIS RESEARCH CENTER IN STUTTGART IN 1982 . WE HAD A NICE CHAT AND I SHOWED HIM MY STADIUM AND BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE. THE STUDENTS RECALL HE WAS IMPRESSED. WE HAD SO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT, BUT HE RUSHED OFF TO A FACULTY MEETING.
WE VISITED HIS LATTICE STRUCTURE IN MANNHEIM AS WELL, AND I WAS AWED AGAIN. HE WAS THE BEST.

AT SCI-ARC WE DID A NUMBER OF TENSION STRUCTURES INFLUENCED BY HIS IMPUTE. CULMINATING IN A TENT BY CLAIRE POLLACK AND CLASS AT THE VANCOVER EXPO. IN 1977. I AND AHDE LAHTI PROFESSORS.

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SCI-ARC TENT EXPO 77 VAN COUVER CANADA 1977 CLASS PROJECT, CLAIR POLLACK STUDENT DESIGN GLEN SMALL AND AHDE LAHTI PROFESSORS

I TALKED WITH FREI OTTO BRIEFLY AT USC SOMETIME IN THE LATE 8O’S , HE WITH HIS WIFE. A BIT STIFF AND OUT OF PLACE IN THE SOCIAL WORLD.

HE WAS THE RARE COMBINATION OF ENGINEERING AND ARCHITECTURE WITH VISIONARY EXPERIMENTAL INTERESTS THAT PRODUCED BEAUTIFUL DESIGNS.

FREI OTTO DEFINITELY LEFT THE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. ALL PRAISE TO HIM.

GLEN

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5 comments

  1. Nice to read your memories. Skin, structure and volume creating form! here is a thought from Exupery, Wind, Sand and Stars: “If anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness.”

  2. ahde,

    thanks for the comment. when we do get naked it is the bare minimum. not all that great is many situations, so we need to add to survive. maybe an ad for a clothing line?

    but it is true that the essence of beauty found in nature is derived by the necessary elements to make it function to survive. frei otto worked towards that end.

    glen

    • READERS,

      WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET COMMENTS? TEAR INTO AN ARCHITE CT ETC.

      THESE LAST TWO BLOGS ARE UPBEAT AND I EXPECTED SOME SECONDS TO THE PRAISE.

      ARCHITECT GREG DAVIS THAT WORKS IN NIGERIA FOR THE POOR ETC, WAS A BIG FAN AND STUDENT THAT BUILT THE TENT AND LEAD A CORAGEOUS GROUP OF SCI-ARC STUDENTS TAKING CARE OF IT AND SETTING IT UP IN NUMEROUS PLACES. CHECK IN GREG YOU TAUGH MY NATURAL STRUCTURE COURSE AND WAS A BIG FAN OF FREI OTTO.
      GLEN

  3. Glen,
    I try to read each of your posts on Smallatlarge, and often am amazed by how much you have accomplished in your career/life. The numerous posts and wonderful images of your work and ones you reference are really amazing. I am often in parts of West Africa without internet connection, so that is my flimsy excuse for not contributing to your posts.

    I especially enjoyed the three posts on the Green Machine, having been around as your student during that time and having made a small contributor to that work. Those are the greatest memories of my time at SCI-Arc, 1975 to 1978, as your student. It was also my great privilege to fill in for you and teach Natural Structures while you were away. That was off and on until 1990 when I left for Botswana.

    On this subject, yes, it was sad to hear the news of Frei Otto’s passing which I first learned about on your post. The recognition that he should now be receiving from the Pritzer Prize award is certainly overdue and well deserved. I only hope that his legacy will be enhanced and that many more in the architectural profession will be exposed to how he worked and what he accomplished.

    As a student of yours, and absorbing all that you taught us is in the studio courses and in Natural Structures, Frei Otto’s work played a very important if not key role in our understanding of how theory, design studies, working models (works like, not looks like) and design engineering could be carried forward into the built world. And what amazing structures he designed and built. When we were studying his work, we only had access to his books, publications, and his design processes and built work through those mediums. Remember that this was all pre-internet and he accomplished a lot without the sophisticated and easy to use computer design software that we have access to today.

    It seems that his work was primarily based upon a high level of raw empirical understanding of structure and the physical limits of the materials. He really took all of that to the highest order. Hopefully, his built structures will be around for a long time unless someone wants to tear them down to build a hotel or some other such nonsense.

    I hope to see you soon in Joshua Tree.
    Greg

    • GREG,

      ALWAYS NICE TO HERE YOU ARE STILL ALIVE IN NIGERIA. THE NEWS IS HORRIBLE .

      ANY TENSILE STRUCTURES THERE?

      FREI OTTO WAS FORTUNATE THAT WE HAD WORLD EXPOS AND WANTING A DIFFERENT LOOK. HE WAS IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME WITH TONS OF TALENT AND PRODUCT. POST MODERNISM HAD NOT BECOME FASHIONABLE AND COMPUTERS WERE NOT AROUND TO LET FRANK CRUMPLE PAPER AND CALL IT ARCHITECTURE.

      I AM AMAZED WITH THE COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY, THAT WE DO NOT SEE MORE OF MINIMUM MATERIAL SOLUTION THAT FREI OTTO AND CANDELA ESPOUSED.

      STAY CLOSE,

      GLEN

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