FÉlix Candela

Experiencing Candela Structures

Sarah Halsey on the roof of Xochimilco
Christy Holzer on the roof of Xochimilco
At Princeton University we encourage students to learn structural engineering through the analysis and design of real structures especially in the Princeton Maillart Archives, which contains hundreds of design drawings of the greatest structural engineers. Furthermore, we encourage students to visit the actual structure to get the full experience and also to examine its condition, which is an important measure of the success or failure of a design. Often these visits inspire students in their chosen field of structural engineering. As Sarah Halsey wrote in the appendix to the book Felix Candela: Engineer, Builder, Structural Artist:
"There are several significant differences between physically visiting a structure and studying it in photos and drawings. First, the viewer’s perspective is never static in real life; the focus of the eyes is constantly shifting, the position of the head moves, the viewer walks around the structure, and so the image gained has multiple perspectives. Second, the eye and the body respond together to the structure, taking an inventory of its mass and the disposition of the mass, creating a visceral response to the building. Finally, all the details that the eye absorbs combine to form a different, more complete impression. When I visited Candela’s structure, I found myself noticing the way surfaces come together, the places where damage has occurred or been repaired, and irregularities in the imprints of the boards used to build the formwork. Things I had never thought about before, except maybe as an abstraction."

Four Princeton students visited Candela’s structures. The first student was Noah Burger (class of 2003) who wrote his senior thesis on Restaurant Los Manantiales (Noah is now a practicing engineer at HNTB). Then in 2004 Powell Draper, who wrote his master’s thesis on Chapel Lomas de Cuernavaca, visited Candela’s structures with the assistance of Professor Juan Gerardo Oliva Salinas and former student Oscar Lara at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Then, again with the assistance of the University, Sarah Halsey visited Candela’s structures in 2006 and Christy Holzer in 2007. Sarah wrote her master’s thesis on the umbrella structures, and Christy studied structural optimization through Candela’s structures for her senior thesis.