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Press Release

March 13, 2009

Gary VanZante
E-mail: vanzante@mit.edu

Laura Knott
E-mail: lknott@mit.edu

Exhibition at MIT Museum Explores Work of Structural Artist Félix Candela

Cambridge, MA-Félix Candela: Engineer, Builder, Structural Artist, an exhibition devoted to the work of Spanish-born master builder and structural artist Félix Candela (1910-1997), April 2 at the MIT Museum and will be on view through September 27, 2009. 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). The exhibition and related Web site portray, for the first time, Candela's remarkable concrete buildings as pure engineering works of art.

Organized by Maria E. Moreyra Garlock, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and David P. Billington, Gordon Y. S. Wu Professor of Engineering, Princeton University, 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.  Selected umbrella structures, which comprise the bulk of his work, further demonstrate the versatility of the hypar form. From renderings and structural models to construction and completed functional buildings, the exhibition seeks to demystify the discipline of engineering. In 1939 Candela was exiled from Spain to Mexico, where he established a construction company and became famous for his thin shell concrete structures. A trained architect, he studied advanced structural engineering on his own, and by the 1950s he had become one of the great structural engineers of the twentieth century.

Candela's work demonstrates three ideas that are essential to the education of structural engineers and to anyone with an appreciation for the built environment: first, the true ethos of engineering, to conserve natural resources by minimizing materials; second, the ethic of engineering, to reduce cost by intimately connecting design to construction; and third, the aesthetic of engineering, to create beautiful forms. These concepts are realized in the thinness of Candela's concrete shells, with their grace and refinement, and their endurance. They remain in excellent condition today after a half-century of continual service.

The exhibition includes animations of the development of the structures, original design drawings, carefully crafted scale models of buildings under construction and after completion designed and built by Princeton University graduate and undergraduate students, photographs, and a slide show. Visitors will be able to 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 will provide insight into his education, the traditions that helped develop his ideas, and how he thought about his designs and their more profound meaning.

A beautifully designed and illustrated book, written by Maria E. Moreyra Garlock and David P. Billington and copublished by the Princeton University Art Museum and Yale University Press, accompanies the exhibition. The book, Félix Candela: Engineer, Builder, Structural Artist, begins by presenting the lineage of master builders and structural artists who preceded Candela, including those from the period of the Industrial Revolution. The authors then examine Candela's life, studies, and experiences, followed by analyses of his favorite thin shell designs. By focusing on the hypar, the authors examine several of these structures in detail.

Web site
A Web site, http://mcis2.princeton.edu/candela/index.html, has been developed to complement and extend the life of the exhibition. The Web site examines the work of Félix Candela and the concept of master builder through the visual representation of the design process and its relationship to the construction process and includes interviews with the professors and students, photo albums of the construction of the models, and three-dimensional rotations of the final models.

Félix Candela: Engineer, Builder, Structural Artist has been made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Mildred Clarke Pressinger von Kienbusch Memorial Fund, and the Joseph L. Shulman Foundation Fund for Publications. Additional funding has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the James L. Green Endowment Fund, the Department of Art and Archaeology, the School of Architecture, and the Council on Science and Technology, Princeton University. Additional support for the project has come from the Randolph Evans Fund, Alan Goodfellow, the National Science Foundation, the American Concrete Institute, Z Corporation, and INTECH Construction, Inc., and at MIT from the MIT School of Architecture and Planning and the  Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Above all, the generosity and support of Dorothy Candela have been crucial to the entire project.

Lecture : Thursday April 23, 4:00 p.m.
David P. Billington, Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering,
Princeton University & Maria E. Moreyra Garlock, Assistant Professor, Princeton University, Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering
EG&G Center, MIT Building 34, room 101.
Reception to follow at MIT Museum, 5:30 p.m. -7:00 p.m.

MIT Museum Gallery Talks :
Monday May 4, 1:00 p.m. & Wednesday May 13, 1:00 p.m.
John Ochsendorf, Associate Professor, Building Technology,
MIT Department of Architecture

All events free and open to the public.

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