RCAT - Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics

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[This research area is located within the Performance-oriented Architecture research and is related to Experimental Design and Construction]


Research Fellow Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel


Research Fellow Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel, Guillem Baraut Bover, Master-mason Øyvind Busset


Research commenced in 2011 - ongoing


The research project undertaken at AHO includes two areas of inquiry: [i] Nested Catenaries and, [ii] Brick Form-finding.


Project Leader: Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel

Researcher Team: Research Fellow Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel, Adjunct Prof. Guillem Baraut Bover

Project Duration: 2010 - ongoing


Sunguroğlu Hensel, D. and Baraut Bover, G.. (2013). ‘Nested Catenaries’. Journal of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures Vol.54 (1): 39-55.

Sunguroğlu Hensel, D. and Buset, Ø. (2012). ‘Nye Murkonstrksjoner – Experimenter I tegl’. Mur + Betong 2: 32-35.

Sunguroğlu Hensel D. (2011). ‘Kompleks Zincir Egrisi Birlesimleri - Nested Catenaries’. Yapi 356 July 2011: 90-93.


Sunguroğlu Hensel, D. and Baraut Bover, G. (2011). 'Nested Catenaries'. Sverre Fehn Symposium 2011: Research Frameworks, Areas and Trajectories in Architecture - Architect and Engineer Session. AHO Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway. 27-28 October 2011.

Sunguroğlu Hensel, D. (2011). 'Complex Brick Assemblies and Nested Catenaries'. RCAT - Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics Inauguration Symposium. AHO Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway. 29 April 2011.

Sunguroğlu Hensel, D. (2010). 'Nested Catenaries Phase 1'. Eladio Dieste Symposium 2010 - Advancing Architecture through Material System Innovation. AHO Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway. 08 Octoberl 2011.


For their article on the Nested Catenary research Research Fellow Defne Sunguroglu Hensel and Adjunct Professor Guillem Baraut Bover win the prestigous Tsuboi Award in the category of  the most meritorious paper published in the Journal of the IASS (International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures founded by Eduardo Torroja in 1959) for the year 2013. The Tsuboi Award honors the memory of Professor Yoshikatsu Tsuboi (Japan, 1907-1990), former President and Honorary Member of the IASS, and his outstanding contributions to structural and architectural design.


Phase 03 of the Nested Catenary research was undertaken in a workshop at e[ad] Escuela de Arquitectura y Diseno - Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso

The project was built as an extension to the cemetery of the Open City in Ritoque, Chile, and constitutes a masonry shell of interconnected sub-shells that are nested to form a vault between two cavity walls. It also involved a strategy of branching as a principle to span and to create nested spaces. The design was limited to twelve sub-shells in creating the overall shell articulating a volume of 162m³, each with synclastic surface geometry to retain the complexity of construction. The structural independence from symmetry and freedom from repetition due to the construction method allowed for a non-uniform spatial organization. The final structure is a nested catenaries shell, produced by spatially organized sub-shells with a thickness of 55mm. The span reaches to 7m in both directions with reaching a height of 3.3m. A total of 1000 bricks were used, which makes an overall weight of approx. 2800 kg including mortar. Thus far, it has survived several earthquakes of a magnitude above 6 on the Richter scale.

Project Team:

Project Leaders: Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel and Øyvind Buset

Project Supervision: Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel, Øyvind Buset, Prof. Dr. David Jolly Monge, Assistant Professor Oscar Andrade

Structural Engineering: Guillem Baraut Bover, BOMA, OCEAN Design Research Association

Participants: Carolina Almarza, Fernando Briones, Randi Fjeldtvedt, Michael Hensel, Javiera Galeas, Camila Gonzales, Astrid Christine Johnsen, Carla Landaeta Jeria, Elisabetha Maniga, Diego Millan, Paula Minte, Macarena Morales, Navid Navid, Fabian Olivares, Matias Penrroz, Soledad Prado, Carlos Trancoso 

Phase 3 of the project was endorsed by the Embassy of Chile in Norway and financed by RCAT.

web pod_nestedcatenaries_03


Phase 02 of the Nested catenary project consitutes a prototype that served to establish the construction process for for phase 03. This phase extends the system from a set of nested catenary arches to nested catenary vaults.

Project Team:

Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel, Øyvind Buset, Guillem Baraut Bover, BOMA, OCEAN Design Research Association

web pod_nestedcatenaries_02


In October 2010, a series of events at AHO Oslo School of Architecture and Design focused on the topic of structural masonry exemplified by the innovative works of Eladio Dieste. (1) As part of these events the brick construction experiments workshop commenced with a line of inquiry based on the basic principles of the catenary arch derived through a form-finding method first utilized three dimensionally by Antoni Gaudi, the hanging chain model.

The brick construction experiments aimed at exploring some of the heretofore unexplored potentials of a catenary arch arrangements, focusing on the spatially organized network of interacting Catenaries. The aim was to accomplish an undulating wall made from nested catenaries. This research challenge formed the basis of a ten days intense brick construction experiments workshop run together with the master mason Øyvind Buset and nineteen master level students from the AHO Auxiliary Architectures Studio. Methodologically the research employed a combination of physical form-finding experiments with hanging chains, digital parametric and associative modelling, and 1:1 scale tests.

The form-finding team developed complex arrangements of hanging chain models in an iterative manner investigating the various configurations that the chain arrangements developed under their own self-weight. The experiments were carried out across different scales ranging from 1:1, 1:4 to 1:10 studying analogously the underlying geometric principles, the parametric definition and behaviour starting from a single chain towards more complex arrangement of chains that are point loaded as a result of a nested assembly.

The computation team worked on several tasks simultaneously. One area of investigation focused on the digital registration of the results gained from the physical form-finding experiments, using a mechanical Digitizer and employing photometric readings to extract empirical information. Two methods for computing nested chain behaviour were developed and investigated in parallel, which constitute [i] the development of an associative parametric set-up [ii] the implementation of the

Kangoroo physics engine to the Rhino Grasshopper set-up. (2) The findings from both the chain models and the 1:1 partial physical tests informed the development of the digital models with the aim to develop the design and construction drawings for the construction of the full-scale prototype.

The construction team built different configurations of catenary arrangements, conducted load tests and investigated different brick laying strategies with focus on the ‘key stones’ at the arch intersections, and developed practical information for carrying out the construction process. The construction of the full-scale prototype was conducted in house with low-tech tools available at the AHO workshop. The final prototype consisted of 950 bricks and covered a floor area of approx. 8000 x 2000 mm reaching 2500 mm high at its highest point.

(1) The Eladio Dieste - Advancing Architecture Through Material Systems Innovation Exhibition and Symposium was organized by Michael Hensel, Defne Sunguroglu Hensel and Birger Sevaldson and sponsored by Byggutengrenser.no, Wienerberger, Weber and Einar Stange at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, AHO during 08-22 October 2010.

(2) Grasshopper is a parametric modeling plug-in for Rhino, which is a NURBS-based 3-D modeling software. The physics engine Kangaroo for Grasshopper embeds relaxation script for digitally simulating the physics behind the hanging chain. Currently under development by Daniel Piker. See

Project Leaders:

Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel and Øyvind Buset

Project Team:

Auxiliary Architectures Studio 2010 @ AHO: Linda Blaasvaer, Mattis Fosse, Marine Giller, Esa Hotanen, Torstein Hågensen-Drønen, Johnbosco Mulwana, Emanuel Ssinabulya, Simen C Lennertzen, Daniela Puga, Joakim Hoen, Rikard Jaucis, Eva Johansson, John Pantzar, Oda Forstrøm, Maximilian Hartinger, Fabian Onneken, Leonard Steidle, Nikolaos Magouliotis, Andre Severin Johansen


Byggutengrenser, Wienerberger, Weber and Einar Stange

Special thanks to:

Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel, Prof. Dr. Birger Sevaldson, Prof. Dr. Remo Pedreschi, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christoph Gengnagel, Dr. Jane Burry, Dr. Chris Williams, Daniel Davis, Daniel Piker, AHO and the sponsors

web pod_nestedcatenaries_01


BRICK WORKSHOP _ Galleri AHO, Oslo, Norway, 2009

Project Leaders: Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel and Øyvind Buset

Sponsors: Byggutengrenser and Wienerberger

The workshop aimed at introducing and exploring a number of brick systems to the Norwegian context in general and AHO in particular. These systems included a catenary arch, an undulating wall, various screenwalls made from brick and intersecting brick domes. The participating students explored and built these brick systems under the guidance of research fellow Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel and master-mason Øyvind Buset. The workshop constituted the first stage in the collaboration between AHO based research fellow Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel, master-mason Øyvind Buset and the local brick industry.

rcat web_brickworkshop_2009

rcat web_brickworkshop_2009_02