PLAN 74: Article
The Art Of Structural Engineering

An Exhibit on the Work of Félix Candela

An exhibition devoted to the work of Spanish-born architect and structural engineer Félix Candela (1910-1997) is on display at the MIT Museum, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, through September 27.

Recognized as one of the great structural artists of the twentieth century, Candela designed and built innovative thin shell concrete roof structures, mostly in Mexico, using the hyperbolic paraboloid geometric form (hypar).

In 1939, he was exiled from Spain to Mexico, where he established a construction company and grew famous for his thin shell concrete structures. A trained architect, he studied advanced structural engineering on his own and by the 1950s had become one of the great structural engineers of the twentieth century.

The exhibition examines Candela’s process of design and construction through several of his most significant works – the Cosmic Rays Laboratory, his first hyperbolic paraboloid shell, and (his self-identified favorites) Los Manantiales Restaurant, Chapel Lomas de Cuernavaca, Bacardí Rum Factory and Church of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. From renderings and structural models to construction and completed functional buildings, the exhibition demystifies the discipline of engineering.

Also on view are animations of the development of the structures, original design drawings, photographs and a slide show, along with carefully crafted scale models of buildings, under construction and after completion, designed and built by students at Princeton. Visitors can see evidence of the thinness of the shells, imprints of straight-line form boards that hint at the construction process and elegance of shape. Candela’s personal notebooks and sketchpads provide insight into his education, the traditions that helped develop his ideas and how he thought about his designs and their more profound meaning.

The exhibition was curated by Maria E. Moreyra Garlock, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and David P. Billington, Gordon Y. S. Wu Professor of Engineering, both of Princeton University. It was organized by the Princeton University Art Museum and the Princeton University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.