Stone Space Frame

Tags: arts and culture, events and exhibitions, stone, temporary structures

Related projects: Equanimity

  • Client: Royal Academy of Arts
  • Designers: Webb Yates Engineers, The Stonemasonry Company
  • Curator: Assemble
  • Photography: Agnese Sanvito
  • Completion: 2024
  • Expertise: Structures
Stone Space Frame - Webb Yates Engineers
Stone Space Frame - Webb Yates Engineers
Stone Space Frame - Webb Yates Engineers

Designed in collaboration with The Stonemasonry Company, Stone Space Frame is a 4.5m tall installation showcasing the elegant forms that can be created using post-tensioned stone, featured as part of the 2024 RA Summer Exhibition.

Stone is typically associated with compression structures and often tends to be used for massive arches, vaults, or walls. The design challenges this assumption by exploring the material’s application in lightweight truss work. In a steel space truss structure, much of the steel volume is there to prevent deflection and axial compression buckling. In ‘Stone Space Frame’, steel is used for tension only, with the structure’s stiffness and buckling stability derived from the prestressed stone. This significantly reduces the weight, and therefore the carbon footprint.

The slender model comprises 40mm diameter stone struts which are post-tensioned with 10mm steel bars to form a space frame which is inherently stable as a result of the geometry and ballasted base. Threaded steel bars are then welded together to form simple, easy to construct nodes. Stone elements at the base are fixed down to the stone ballast block, securing the structure in place.

The model’s striking geometry appears to transform from different perspectives — when viewed from the front, the structure appears symmetrical; from the side, it appears to lean in opposing directions at each level. Parametric modelling enabled the creation of a practical, buildable structure, allowing our team to probe and adapt intricacies and details of the interfaces between individual elements.

The construction of the model was made possible with support from Artisteel and Solubema. Stone Space Frame was featured in Wohl Central Hall, a space curated by Assemble to explore the creative design process.