In Nantes, as part of the URBiNAT regeneration project, the students from the Master in Advanced Architecture during the Data Informed Structures Seminar co-design alongside with local citizens structures based on Nature Based Solutions (NBS) that will be installed in Nantes in 2023.


This year the Master in Advanced Architecture’s Data Informed Structures Seminar has been organised within the framework of the URBiNAT H2020 project. URBiNAT aims to regenerate deprived urban areas with healthy corridors, implemented through Nature Based Solutions (NBS) co-created with citizens. IAAC’s students worked alongside local citizens in Nantes to co-design structures through a series of workshops, exploring different structural typologies and solutions. The workshops with the citizens of Nantes aimed at gathering feedback and receiving their input regarding the design proposals. With their feedback in mind, a lightweight strategy was selected and IAAC’s students continued to develop it into a series of prototypes.

The Concept and Design:

Contribution by Rishaad Yusuff

Characters of L’Herbier Extraordinaire” is a palette of raw information manifested into an “architectural being”. Inputs from varying stakeholders right down to the elements of nature shaped the overall design geometry with multiple geometrical interactions. Evolving from the idea of a floating 4-Dimensional cloud, a lightweight structure was conceived that had an omnidirectional character. The structure would house community planting as a major feature with mobile resting areas punctuated around it. To maximise the ground area for accessibility along with the planting, the vertical support members were concentrated towards the centre ensuring a flexible space underneath. With structural, material, solar and irrigation analysis, the cylinder morphed and so did the support members. The skewed angle of the 3 circles, controlled parametrically, created a gradient of roof perforations that regulated the inlet of light that would address the growth of plants and shading for the users. The introduction of a series of carefully stitched, double layered, jellyfish-like roof-system [“skirts”] with upcycled parachute material, would create a volume to collect and redirect water into the planting scheme. A planting bench strategically located along a tension cable reinforced the structural stability on one axis while an irrigation bench along another tension cable provided rigidity on another axis. The central support system was a bundle of four pipes converging to a singular location forming the threshold between the cloud and the ground.  The geometric resolution of the overall volume is the result of a dynamic system and a dialogue with nature.

Structural and Environmental Design Development

Contribution by Federico Caldi

Vertical members holding the roof through post-tensioned cables have constituted the structural concept of the design. These have brought many advantages:

  • Simplicity of the building process (the whole structure was subdivided in two elements where cables have played the “linking role”);
  • High tolerances – textile attachment to the roof as well as the use of cables have allowed adjustments throughout the making process;
  • Lightweight structure – avoiding applying the truss concept to the roof elements, thus decreasing the number of pipes and complicated welds.

These features have allowed the implementation of complex patches of fabric that channel rainwater for plants watering and provide a shaded area for the users. From an architectural standpoint, dematerialisation and fragmentation of the structural elements was adopted to give the feeling the whole roof levitates above the users. This characteristic did not come without further considerations. In fact, instability either of the slender “columns” or of roof cables was observed through smaller prototypes and digital models and could be adjusted. Moreover, scaled down prototypes became helpful for developing the water collection system since they gave a first measure of the gutter and the pattern of the holes for water to drip.

The Use of Textile

Contribution by Vasudha Karnani

Investigations of textiles were an integral part for the development of the project. Textiles enhanced and  directed the form development , and the choice of materials were able to actively inform the of the final outcome. The research focused on using textiles as elements of shading,  water collectors and distributors, as light weight infills and roofing materials, visual barriers as well as a medium of storage.

An effort was made on upcycling and reusing discarded materials. The options of textiles explored were –  leftover parachute synthetic fabric, used nets from olive farms and discarded fishing nets. Different textiles offered different potentials and features to explore. Parachute plastic provided a water resistant and strong stretchable material that was used to channel and distribute water as well as collect and store. The translucency of the material also made it act as a shading device. Fabrication techniques like laser cutting and stitching were used to create the surfaces. Strategies like double layering, folding to create pockets, cutting calculated holes as perforations for water were also possible due to the material choice. Nets were used as plant growing supports, hammocks and seating elements as well as shading veils. The colours of white, orange and green added character to the final outcome.

Through digital and physical prototypes, the students were able to bring their structural designs to life. This project will continue to be developed over the coming months and will be installed in Nantes in Spring 2023. Look out for updates on the project on IAAC’s website and social media pages.

Are you interested in learning how to apply structural analysis within your architectural designs?
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