The Function of Form / Farshid Moussavi

After “The Function of Ornament“, Farshid Moussavi comes again with another useful book published by ACTAR and Harvard GSD.

The book is the result of a series of seminars Moussavi taught over 2 years at the GSD, and in over 500 pages it describes the most common material systems and its sub-systems: Grids and Frames, Vaults, Domes, Folded Plates, Shells, Tensile Membranes and Pneumatic Membranes.

Each of these systems are presented first on its most basic unit, which is then tessellated into three  directions (horizontal, vertical, curved) exploring the full potential of these combinations, either trough completed buildings, proposals or just proposed structures by the author and her team.

For example, the Diagrid (interconnected support beams that form a diagonal grid) one of the systems included in the book, starts with the basic unit (as seen on a photo below) with a description of the forces and how flexible the system is in terms of scale, angles, depth, profile, etc. Then, it is described in its horizontal tessellations exemplified through the Smithsonian Reynolds Center for American Art by Foster + Partners, the Milan Fair Center by Fuksas, or the Great Court at the British Museum by F+P. On the vertical, we have 30st Mary  Axe by F+P, the Hearst Tower by F+P, the Lotte Super Tower Hotel by SOM, Elisabeth House by FOA and even the Glass Pavilion by Bruno Taut, among others.  Every example has very good drawings and explanations (see photos below).

Also, the matrix incorporates affect, defined by Deleuze “as the pre-personal intensities transmitted by forms”, ranging from freedom to centrality, and other several terms that further extend our conception of these systems.

This exercise, starting from the basic unit and then expanded according to its possibilities, repeated in a rigorous matrix for all the systems, makes this book a valuable resource for almost everyone: from students, to architects who need to deal with a structure in early stages of design, up to someone dealing with parametric tools for complex structures, because at the end the systems are the same: from Bruno Taut to SOM, to FOA.

More info after the break.

“In The Function of Form, internationally acclaimed architect, Farshid Moussavi, provides a provocative critique of the historically opposing relationship between function and form to reveal the contradiction at the heart of modernism. We need to move away from the definition of function as utility, she argues, to align it with how function is defined in mathematics, biology or music. Form, on the other hand, should be considered not only in the way buildings are produced, but also how they perform sensorially. Function and form, considered together in architecture, stand in opposition to the dualism which defined our approach to the built environment throughout the twentieth century. This book provides a thought-provoking account of the challenges facing the 21st century built environment, and an enlivened awareness of the wider possibilities of architectural form.”

- Actar

Publisher: Actar and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Author: Farshid Moussavi

Editors: Daniel López, Garrick Ambrose, Ben Fortunato, Ryan Ludwig, Ahmadreza Schricker

Language: English

Cover: Hard Plastic

Pages: 502

Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.8 x 1.6 inches

ISBN: 978-8496954731



The Function of Form





Grids and Frames

One-Way Frame

Two-Way Frame


Grid-Slab Frame

Double-Layer Grid


Barrel Vault

Cross Vault

Complex Rib Vault

Fan Vault

Curved Rib Vault

Cellular Vault


Surface Dome

Ribbed Dome

Stacked Arch Dome

Yazdi-Bandi Dome

Kar-Bandi Dome

Kaseh-Sazi Dome

Muqarnas Dome

Folded Plates

Folded Plate

Folded Plate and Truss


Conical Shell

Umbrella Column Shell

Hyper Curved Shell

Tensile Membranes

Parallel Cable Tensile Membrane

Radial Cable Tensile Membrane

Pneumatic Membranes

Air Supported Pneumatic Membrane

Inflated Beam Pneumatic Membrane

Buy this book

About this author
Cite: David Basulto. "The Function of Form / Farshid Moussavi" 21 Jan 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.