Philippe Block is a full professor at the Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA) at ETH Zurich, where he leads the Block Research Group (BRG) with Dr. Tom Van Mele and is Head of the Institute. Philippe is also Director of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) in Digital Fabrication. He studied architecture and structural engineering at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Belgium and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, where he earned his PhD in 2009. With Foreign Engineering, Philippe and Tom translate their research into practice, offering consultancy on structural geometry and computation and the design, engineering and construction of novel shell structures.

The Block Research Group at ETH Zurich develops novel design and engineering approaches for efficient structural form and proposes new and economical construction approaches. To address the grand challenges posed by climate change, the group’s research and built prototypes strive the motto “strength through geometry” to reduce embodied greenhouse gas emissions and utilise fewer first-use resources. To minimise construction waste and increase labour productivity, the group develops innovative bespoke prefabrication strategies and novel construction paradigms. Drawing from a revival of forgotten principles combined with the latest advances in the design, engineering, fabrication and construction of doubly-curved shell structures lay the foundations upon which projects such as the unreinforced stone Armadillo Vault, the thin, flexibly formed concrete shells of the NEST HiLo and KnitCandela projects, the 3D-concrete-printed masonry bridge Striatus, and the Rippmann Floor System (RFS), a lightweight and ultra-low-embodied floor system, were based.

Striatus – 3D-concrete-printed masonry bridge, Venice, (c)naaro
KnitCandela – fabric-formed shell, Mexico City, (c) Philippe Block
Armadillo – unreinforced stone vault, Venice, (c) Iwan Baan
NEST HiLo shell prototype, Zurich, (c) Michael Lyrenmann